KYIV – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday his country would not participate in the upcoming G-20 summit in Indonesia if Russian President Vladimir Putin also attends.

“If the leader of the Russian Federation was to take part in it, Ukraine would not be participating,” Zelensky told a press conference with Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou in Kyiv.

G-20 summit host Indonesia is waiting to see if Putin will attend, Indonesia’s foreign minister Retno Marsudi said on Thursday.

She added that differences over Ukraine had made preparations for the meeting particularly fraught.

Indonesia’s presidency of the G-20 this year and its preparations for the Nov 15-16 summit on the island of Bali have been overshadowed by the war in Ukraine and resulting food and energy crisis.

The world’s 20 most powerful economies disagree on how to respond to it.

Marsudi told Reuters in an interview that Putin’s attendance at the meeting might only become clear at the last minute.

“Let’s wait until D-Day,” she said, when asked if the Russian leader’s attendance had been confirmed.

US President Joe Biden is due to attend.

When Indonesia assumed the chairmanship of the G-20 last December, the biggest concern was recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, she said, but that changed with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb 24.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West say the fascist allegation is baseless and that the war is an unprovoked act of aggression.

As G-20 host, Indonesia has worked hard to bridge the divide, with President Joko Widodo visiting both Kyiv and Moscow in June and inviting Ukraine’ Zelensky to attend the summit.

Ukraine called on Tuesday for Russia to be expelled from the G-20 and for Putin’s invitation to the Bali summit to be revoked.

Marsudi, asked about that call, said it was not the prerogative of the G-20 chair.

“The presidency doesn’t have the right to expel, unless it’s a consensus from G-20 member countries,” she said.

‘Very difficult’

Marsudi said some countries had taken a “black and white” approach to very complex issues, and in some cases group members had taken days to agree on the use of a single word.

“It’s very, very, very difficult,” she said of the preparations for the summit.

“I can say that Indonesia’s presidency this time, maybe it’s among the or maybe the most difficult of all G20‘s because of the geopolitical issues, economy, and others.”

The grouping has failed to release joint communiques at several meetings this year, including a G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in July.

A joint communique also appears unlikely at the upcoming summit, with Indonesia instead working on a “leader’s declaration”, two diplomatic sources told Reuters.

Marsudi declined to directly answer questions on the likelihood of a communique, saying only that she was more concerned about the substance of the final document.

“Whatever name it adopts will contain leaders’ political commitments. For us, it’s better that we focus on the content. In the end, the content speaks more,” she said.

Indonesia, which voted at the UN General Assembly in October to condemn what Russia has called its annexation of four Ukrainian territories, has maintained that the G-20 should focus on economic issues.

Marsudi said that while discussion of the Ukraine war was inevitable, the G-20 remained “intact”.

Among this year’s successes, she said, was a fund for future pandemics that has reached US$1.4 billion (S$2 billion), with contributions from countries and groupings such as China, the United States and the European Union.  AFP, REUTERS