US says it's working hard to have a strong consensus leaders' declaration at APEC

By David Brunnstrom and Simon Lewis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is working hard to try to get a strong consensus leaders' statement at this week's Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) summit this week, the senior U.S. official for APEC, Matt Murray, told reporters on Monday.

Leaders from the 21-member APEC forum are due to gather in San Francisco from Wednesday until Friday. The wars in the Middle East and Ukraine have divided opinion among APEC members, making drafting a summit declaration difficult.

"We're certainly working toward having a strong consensus statement in APEC for the leaders to be able to release at the end of the week," Murray said in a briefing call, while acknowledging there had been "a lot of friction over the last couple of years over statements, primarily due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict."

"But last year Thailand hosted APEC and was able to announce a consensus leaders’ declaration, and we certainly want to try to do the same thing this year," Murray said.

"And we're working very hard with all of our like-minded partners and economies, economic partners throughout APEC, to try to deliver that kind of result."

Russia is a member of APEC and last year in Bangkok leaders endorsed a text vowing to uphold and strengthen a rules-based multilateral trading system while noting "most" of them condemned Russia's war in Ukraine.

This year the war in the Middle East is an added complication with Muslim majority APEC members Indonesia and Malaysia, for example, backing the Palestinian cause, while the United States and others lean toward Israel.

The United State as host is in charge of the APEC guest list and says Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be attending the San Francisco summit. Murray said Russia would be represented by a deputy prime minister and other officials not subject to U.S. sanctions.

APEC accounts for about 62% of global GDP and almost half of global trade. It is unique in grouping economies rather than nations, allowing participation of Chinese-ruled Hong Kong and democratically governed Taiwan, which China claims as its own. It does not, however, include India, the world's most populous country.

Murray said India would be represented at ministerial-level APEC meetings this week as a "guest economy."

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Simon Lewis; editing by Jonathan Oatis)