US frowns on Indonesia’s invite to Putin for G20 summit

This handout picture taken and released on April 29, 2022 by Indonesia’s Presidential Palace shows Indonesian President Joko Widodo making a political statement at the presidential palace in Bogor, where he invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in addition to Russian President Vladimir Putin, to attend the G20 meeting next November in Bali. (Photo by Handout / PRESIDENTIAL PALACE / AFP) 

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AFP) — Indonesia faced down US opposition and invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to the G20 summit in November, as well as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, its leader said Friday.

Jakarta, which holds the G20 presidency this year, has been under heavy pressure from the West, led by the United States, to exclude Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, but it has argued it must remain “impartial”.

“I have invited President Zelensky to attend the G20 summit,” said President Joko Widodo, suggesting a compromise had been reached following pressure from US President Joe Biden and others to allow Ukraine’s participation to strike a balance.

Putin confirmed in a phone call with Widodo that he will attend the summit, to take place on Bali island, the Indonesian leader said in a livestreamed address.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a speech at a meeting of advisory council of the Russian parliament in Saint Petersburg on April 27, 2022. (Photo by Alexey DANICHEV / SPUTNIK / AFP)

Russia is a G20 member, while Ukraine is not.

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 29: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks at a daily press conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on April 29, 2022 in Washington, DC. During the briefing Psaki took questions on the war in Ukraine and gas prices. Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Sarah Silbiger / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Biden’s administration made clear its view on Putin’s invitation Friday.

“The President has expressed publicly his opposition to President Putin attending the G20. We have welcomed the Ukrainians attending,” Biden Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in Washington.

“We have conveyed our view that we don’t think (Russia) should be a part of it publicly and privately,” she told reporters, adding that Washington understood the invite was issued “before the invasion.”

“The United States continues to believe that it can’t be business as usual with regards to Russia’s participation with the international community or international institutions,” State Department deputy spokesperson Jalina Porter told reporters when asked about the invitation.

She did not comment on whether the United States would still attend.

– Indonesia seeking neutrality –

Zelensky had announced in a tweet that he was invited to the summit by Indonesia on Wednesday, following a call with Widodo.

This handout photograph released by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) walking with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (R) during their meeting in Kyiv, on April 28, 2022. – Russia confirmed that it carried out strikes on Kyiv, as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres visited the Ukrainian capital on April 28, 2022. Guterres and his team are unhurt. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says the strikes are part of Russian leaders’ attempts to humiliate the United Nations. (Photo by UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE / AFP)

Widodo met with the Russian president on Thursday, saying, “Putin thanked Indonesia for the invitation to the G20 summit and said he would attend.”

During the conversation, Putin wished Indonesia’s G20 presidency “success”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

But “for the time being, it is premature to communicate the modalities of Russian participation”, he said, leaving the format of Moscow’s participation in doubt.

The West has attempted to diplomatically isolate Russia since the beginning of its military offensive in February.

A meeting of G20 finance ministers in April in Washington illustrated the deep divisions in the group of the world’s major economies, with the US and several allies boycotting talks to protest Russian participation.

But Indonesia, like most major emerging economies, has tried to maintain a neutral position.

Widodo said on Friday that Indonesia would not send weapons to Ukraine in response to a request from Zelensky, instead offering humanitarian aid.

The war in Ukraine was again a major talking point on Friday when Widodo spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

The Indonesian president called for an immediate end to hostilities and stressed the need for a “peaceful solution”.

Kishida agreed that the violence must end but used stronger language to describe the conflict.

“An infringement on sovereignty and territorial integrity through the use of force and intimidation, as well as an attempt to unilaterally change the status quo by force, are unacceptable in any region,” he said.


© Agence France-Presse