US's Blinken says no plans to meet Russia, China at G20

Top US diplomat Antony Blinken said Wednesday he had no plans to meet his Russian or Chinese counterparts at a G20 foreign ministers' meeting, as Ukraine and China tensions overshadow attempts by host India to forge unity among the world's biggest economies.

The gathering in New Delhi on Thursday will be the first time US Secretary of State Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have been in the same room since a G20 meeting in Bali last July.

"If Russia... were genuinely prepared to engage in meaningful diplomacy necessary to end the aggression, of course we'd be the first to work to engage, but there's zero evidence of that," Blinken told reporters ahead of his Wednesday arrival in Delhi.

A meeting of G20 finance ministers in Bengaluru last week failed to agree on a common statement after Beijing and Moscow sought to water down language on Russia's war with Ukraine.

But Washington was optimistic this week's summit would produce a declaration reflecting "the majority, if not the overwhelming majority of the G20 continuing to stand against Russia's war", a senior State Department official said.

Lavrov arrived late Tuesday in India -- which has not condemned the war -- and will use his G20 attendance to lay into Western countries, according to the Russian foreign ministry.

The West wants to "take revenge for the inevitable disappearance of the levers of dominance from its hands", the ministry's English-language statement said.

"The destructive policy of the US and its allies has already put the world on the brink of a disaster," it added.

- 'Spy balloon' -

The US secretary of state also said he had no plans to meet Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang on the sidelines of the of the two-day G20 gathering.

Blinken had a fiery encounter with top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi last month in Germany after the United States shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon over its east coast on February 4.

The incident led Blinken to nix a rare trip to China, slamming the "unacceptable violation of US sovereignty and international law" which "must never again occur", the State Department said.

Beijing, which has also been angered by Washington's stance on Taiwan, denies it uses spy balloons and says the craft was for weather research.

Wang "urged the US side to change course, acknowledge and repair the damage that its excessive use of force caused to China-US relations", state news agency Xinhua reported.

- 'Material support'  -

Blinken also warned Wang against providing "material support" to Russia's faltering war effort, as is speculated in Washington. Beijing denies any such intention.

Xinhua quoted Wang last week as saying China was willing to "strengthen strategic coordination" with Russia after meeting Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Blinken was also expected on Friday to meet his counterparts from the Quad group, which includes the United States, Japan, Australia and India, and is seen as a bulwark against China in the Asia-Pacific region.

Japan's foreign ministry said the meeting would affirm the group's "commitment to strengthening a free and open international order based on the rule of law".

- Awkward hosts -

India wants to use its G20 presidency this year to focus on issues such as alleviating poverty and climate finance, but the Ukraine war and its effects are set to dominate the agenda.

Hosting the G20 puts India in a tricky position, because while it shares Western concerns about China, it is also a major buyer of Russian arms and has ramped up Russian oil imports.

India has not condemned the Ukraine invasion, although Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Putin last year that this was "not a time for war", in comments seen as a rebuke of Moscow.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he was confident India would use the meeting to "make Russia understand that this war has to finish".

"Certainly the success of the meeting today will be measured in respect to what we will be able to do on that," he told reporters in Delhi.