Osaka G20 summit communique: A ‘work of diplomatic art’

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) shaking hands with US President Donald Trump during their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan. (AFP Photo / Saudi Royal Palace / Bandar Al-Jaloud)
Updated 30 June 2019

Osaka G20 summit communique: A ‘work of diplomatic art’

  • The Osaka declaration distills the views of 20-plus political leaders into a display of unanimity
  • The statement goes some way towards meeting Japan's wish to show unity and compromise

OSAKA: G20 leaders’ declarations — known as “the communique” — are precise works of diplomatic skill, knitted together painstakingly by the “sherpas” who work behind the scenes to distill the often conflicting views of 20-plus political leaders into a single cohesive display of unanimity. The risk is that they can try to satisfy so many different opinions that they end up as meaningless waffle.

The final communique issued in Osaka on Saturday went some way toward meeting the Japanese hosts’ wish to show unity and compromise, while retaining the substance of the diverging viewpoints on show at the G20. “It was a work of diplomatic art,” said a media professional at the event.

The leaders met, the communique read, “to make united efforts to address major global economic challenges. We will work together to foster global economic growth, while harnessing the power of technological innovation, in particular digitalization, and its application for the benefit of all.”
Nobody could argue with that, except that it gives no flavor of the disagreements over trade, inequality and climate change that were features of the two-day event. That came in the fine detail of the 7,000 word statement.
On the global economy, for example, the leaders observed that “growth remains low and risks remain tilted to the downside,” and reiterated their commitment to do everything in the policy-maker’s book to establish a “virtuous cycle” of growth.
But you had to read down to see that one big reason for the worrying global outlook was the on-off trade war between the US and China.
“We strive to realize a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep our markets open,” the leaders said — a position that would make the Chinese and Europeans happy.
But there had to be something too for Donald Trump’s US, which dislikes the World Trade Organization (WTO) and threatens to use tariffs as an instrument of foreign policy. “We reaffirm our support for the necessary reform of the WTO to improve its functions,” the communique said in a sop to the Americans.
“We agree that action is necessary regarding the functioning of the dispute settlement system consistent with the rules as negotiated by WTO members.”
There was a similar fudge in the section on data, one of the big themes of the G20. The Europeans and Americans are all for the free flow of information across borders via the Internet; the big Asian powers are keener on security of data and citizens’ information.
“Cross-border flow of data, information, ideas and knowledge generates higher productivity, greater innovation, and improved sustainable development, while raising challenges related to privacy, data protection, intellectual property rights, and security,” the leaders agreed, but they also noted that “the value of an ongoing discussion on security in the digital economy is growing.”
Inequality — of demographics and gender — is another theme that divides the leaders, but the communique managed to please everybody with an ambitious but bland commitment to “promote decent work and reaffirm our commitment to take actions to eradicate child labor, forced labor, human trafficking and modern slavery in the world of work, including through fostering sustainable global supply chains.”
But it was perhaps the section on “realizing an inclusive and sustainable world” that had to make the most twists and turns to keep everybody happy.
It reaffirmed the global predilection for economic growth and development, but simultaneously said that growth had to be sustainable to “ensure that no one is left behind.” The communique repeated its pledges on African development and investment, as well as the promotion of global health and medical investment.


Argentina — 2018

Japan — 2019

Saudi Arabia — 2020

Italy — 2021

India — 2022

On climate change — perhaps the second most divisive issue at the G20 after trade — the sherpas had worked hard to make sure nobody stormed out in a fit of anger.
“We emphasize the importance of providing financial resources to assist developing countries with respect to both mitigation and adaptation in accordance with the Paris Agreement,” the leaders agreed, thereby pacifying the French President Emmanuel Macron, who had threatened to refuse to sign the document unless it mentioned the Paris accords on global warming.
The Americans under Trump, of course, have said they will leave the Paris deal. So, to balance things up, the leaders included a lengthy section on how good the Americans really are on climate and the environment.
“The US’s balanced approach to energy and environment allows for the delivery of affordable, reliable, and secure energy to all its citizens while utilizing all energy sources and technologies, including clean and advanced fossil fuels and technologies, renewables, and civil nuclear power, while also reducing emissions and promoting economic growth. The United States is a world leader in reducing emissions,” the communique said.
Finally, one of the initiatives that Japan was especially proud of at the G20 was the “Osaka Blue Ocean Vision” to stop marine pollution, especially by the plastics industry. That got a big mention toward the end.
The sherpas will be back at their craft next year in Saudi Arabia, followed by Italy and then India.


Russia’s Putin lauds good relations with Saudi Arabia, condemns Aramco attacks

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin during a bilateral meeting at the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Buenos Aires. (File/AFP)
Updated 13 October 2019

Russia’s Putin lauds good relations with Saudi Arabia, condemns Aramco attacks

  • Moscow could play a key role in easing regional tensions given its good ties with Gulf states and Iran
  • The Russian president made his only trip to Riyadh way back in 2007

RIYADH: Russian President Vladimir Putin has praised relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia and condemned the recent attacks on state-owned Aramco oil facilities.
Putin said such attacks only strengthened cooperation between oil producers inside and outside OPEC, an alliance known as OPEC+, and that Russia would work with its partners to reduce attempts to destabilize markets.
As President Donald Trump reinstated US sanctions, increasing pressure on Iran’s economy, there have been a series of attacks in Saudi Arabia and in Gulf waters that Washington and close allies have blamed on Iran, which denies responsibility.
Putin told Arab broadcasters in an interview aired on Sunday ahead of his visit to the Kingdom in more than a decade, that he has “very good relations” with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The Russian president is due to arrive in Saudi Arabia on Monday and then heads to the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday.
Putin said that there has been a 38 percent growth in economic cooperation between the Kingdom and Russia.
Russia’s Direct Investment Fund and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund have created a base of $10 billion, with $2 billion in investments, he added.
Russian petrochemicals company Sibur Holding is looking to build a petrochemical complex worth more than $1 billion in investments, Putin also said.
Syrian Conflict
On Syria, where Russia and Iran have been key allies of President Bashar Assad in an 8-1/2-year civil war, the Russian president said they would not have been able to reach a positive outcome without Saudi cooperation.
“I would like to emphasize the positive role Saudi Arabia has played in resolving the Syrian crisis … without Saudi Arabia’s contribution toward a Syrian settlement, it would have been impossible to achieve a positive trend,” he said, thanking King Salman and Mohammed bin Salman for their “constructive approach.”
He said Moscow supports the Assad regime in Syria, not because they have no blame in the situation but to prevent terrorist organizations from infiltrating the war-torn country.
“We are working with Turkey and Iran to resolve the Syrian conflict, but without Saudi it would not be possible to come to a good solution,” he said.
A congress convened by Russia last year tasked the United Nations envoy for Syria with forming a committee to draft a new constitution, after many rounds of talks to end the war failed.
UN officials say forming a constitutional committee is key to political reforms and new elections meant to unify Syria and end a war which has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced about half of the pre-war 22 million population.
Turkey launched an assault last week against Kurdish forces in border areas of northern Syria, saying it seeks to set up a “safe zone” to resettle Syrian refugees but raising international alarm over the possibility of Daesh militants escaping from prisons.
Iran Deal
Asked if Moscow supported new a return to negotiations with Iran to limit its missile program as Trump has called for enforcing the nuclear deal first, Putin said the two issues should be dealt with separately.
“Most likely it (the missiles) can and should be discussed ... The missile program is one thing and the nuclear program is another thing,” he said. “Of course, this is necessary, but there is no need to merge one with the other...”
The Russian president said OPEC+ was an initiative introduced by the crown prince to increase their cooperation in oil sector, and that he was the one who suggested to expand military collaboration between the two countries.
Saudi Arabia was not just a regional energy player but also a global one, and “we care about our cooperation,” Putin said.
The Russian leader added that anything that threatens energy trade stability must be stopped, and “we should work together” to stop it.
Aramco Attacks
Putin also condemned the Sept. 14 attacks on Aramco facilities, noting “such actions do not bring any positive results to anybody, including perpetrators,” as they do not have a strong effect on the market.
“We condemn any such actions, end of story. This is the official position … regardless of who stood behind the incident,” said Putin.
He insisted Russia’s intelligence community does not know who perpetrated the Aramco attacks, but he also said that his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, has denied Tehran’s complicity in the attacks. Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Riyadh and Washington blamed Tehran.
However, Putin said: “It is wrong to determine who is guilty before it is known reliably and clearly who is behind this act,” Putin said, adding that he had agreed to help investigate the attack.
“If someone may have wanted to deal a blow to the oil market, they failed. There were indeed some fluctuations in prices, but I do not think it was anything too serious, even though the initial response was quite strong.
“We need to respond to any attempt to destabilize the market. Russia will certainly continue working with Saudi Arabia and other partners and friends in the Arab world to counter any attempts to wreak havoc in the market,” he said in an interview with Al Arabiya.
Putin believes Russia can play a positive role in resolving regional disagreements, because of Moscow’s positive relations with the Arab world, Iranians, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.