G20 leaders meet in Indonesia’s Bali in the shadow of war and economic slowdown

Special World leaders discuss food and energy security (main) on the opening day of the G20 Summit in Bali. (Getty Images)
World leaders discuss food and energy security (main) on the opening day of the G20 Summit in Bali. (Getty Images)
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Updated 16 November 2022

G20 leaders meet in Indonesia’s Bali in the shadow of war and economic slowdown

G20 leaders meet in Indonesia’s Bali in the shadow of war and economic slowdown
  • “Recover together, recover stronger” theme alludes to COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences
  • Presidents Biden and Xi held first in-person meeting amid strained US-China relations over a number of issues

DENPASAR, Bali: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year appeared to overshadow all else on the agenda of the leaders’ meeting of the Group of 20 on Tuesday, with the conflict in Europe having fueled geopolitical tensions and a global surge in food and energy prices.

Leaders of G20 member states, invited countries and international organizations have gathered in Bali to discuss the pressing challenges facing the global economy, which is creeping toward a recession.

Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous country and Southeast Asia’s largest economy, is hosting the summit under the theme “Recover together, recover stronger” in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences.

Although the summit’s official focus is on financial stability, health, sustainable energy, and digital transformation, host Indonesia faces another layer of complexity as it tries to bridge rifts within the G20 over the war in Ukraine.

Joko Widodo, the Indonesian president, acknowledged the mood during his opening remarks on Tuesday, just before the closed-door discussions began.

“I understand we need huge efforts to be able to sit together in this room,” he said, while calling for collaboration among countries.

He pointed out that the world could not afford to fall into “another Cold War,” adding that nations must work to “end the war.”

He said: “Today, the eyes of the world are on our meeting. Will we score success? Or will we add one more to the list of failures? For us, G20 must succeed and cannot fail.”

Seventeen G20 leaders are attending this week’s summit, including US President Joe Biden, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Indonesia invited other nations and international organizations to take part, adding to a long list of world leaders that includes UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.




Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets French President Emmanuel Macron (right), as well as speaking with UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed (top left) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoga on the sidelines of the G20 summit. (SPA)

Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, addressed G20 leaders via video link on the summit’s first day, in which he shared his optimism that the conflict’s end could be in sight.

He said: “I am convinced now is the time when the Russian destructive war must and can be stopped.”

Analysts expect the war to feature prominently in the summit’s final communique, despite calls by the Indonesian hosts for dialogue and collaboration to resolve global economic problems such as inflation, and food and energy security.

Gatherings of G20 ministers since Indonesia took over the group’s presidency last December have failed to produce joint declarations. There have been disagreements between Russia and other members on the precise language, including how to describe what is occurring in Ukraine.

Dr. Ahmad Rizky Mardhatillah Umar, an Indonesian international relations researcher at the University of Queensland, in Australia said the expected final declaration on Wednesday was unlikely to fully address the global challenges facing the world today.

He told Arab News: “Given the tensions between the US and China for example in some political matters and then war in Ukraine, it is difficult to see the G20 Summit will deliver an agreeable result that can solve the global challenges facing the world today, because global challenges facing the world today are largely a political problem.




Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, addressed G20 leaders via video link on the summit’s first day. (Screenshot)

“So, it is a difficult task for Indonesia to deliver a joint communique which is able to solve all the global challenges.”

He noted that the challenges facing the world today were “something that goes beyond Indonesia’s reach.”

Umar added that this was “because the global crisis today requires political solutions, and it is difficult for Indonesia to mediate, for example, between Russia and Ukraine.”

The gathering in Bali follows concerted efforts by Indonesia to broker peace between the warring nations. In late June, Widodo was the first Asian leader to travel to Kyiv and Moscow to meet his Ukrainian and Russian counterparts in an effort to ease the conflict’s impact on the international community.

Bhima Yudhistira, director of the Center of Economic and Law Studies in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, also felt that the global situation was beyond Indonesia’s control.

“The summit has been overshadowed by the Ukraine war, and it’s possible that they won’t reach a final communique, even though the key of the meeting’s success is on this communique,” he told Arab News.

“Indonesia’s position is as a developing country, and the defining players are the ones in conflict and developed countries, so even being able to facilitate the meeting between America’s Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping at the G20 is already an achievement for now,” Yudhistira said.




Analysts expect the war to feature prominently in the summit’s final communique, despite calls by the Indonesian hosts for dialogue and collaboration to resolve global economic problems such as inflation, and food and energy security. (AFP)

On Tuesday, Biden and Xi held their first in-person meeting since the US president took office. It came amid strained relations between their two countries that span various issues, ranging from trade to the status of Taiwan.

Yudhistira was nevertheless confident that this year’s G20 Summit would go down in history.

“I think this is a historic G20. It’s historic because of the polarization, because of the crack in multilateralism, but it’s still the one forum that brings together differences, such as between the US and China,” he added.

For others, there was still hope that the summit could bring about stability.

Diana Dewi, chairwoman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s chapter in Jakarta, told Arab News: “There is hope that this would result in world peace, because with this summit it’s not only about reaching for economic growth, but ever since the beginning, like President Widodo has said, this is an event that is supposed to unite.”

News agencies reported on Tuesday that leaders of the world’s largest economies appeared ready to convey a strong message condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, though the draft declaration would still need to be approved by all the group’s members.

Established in 1999 in the wake of the Asian financial crisis, the G20 was originally intended to foster global economic cooperation. But it has since morphed into a forum addressing urgent world problems. This year’s focus was on health infrastructure and food security.

The annual leaders’ summit also serves as an opportunity for informal diplomatic exchanges, as heads of state participate in bilateral talks on the sidelines of the big meeting.




Joe Biden (right) and Chinese president Xi Jinping held their first in-person meeting since the US president took office. (AFP)

Tuesday witnessed a handful of the bilateral exchanges, including that of Xi and Anthony Albanese, Australia’s new prime minister, which marked the first formal meeting between the leaders of the two countries since 2016.

The Saudi crown prince also held a number of meetings on the summit’s sidelines, including with the UAE president, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Though most international headlines have focused on US and Chinese participation in the summit due to their global economic standing, Saudi Arabia’s role “is very significant,” senior Indonesian journalist Andreas Ismar told Arab News.

“Saudi Arabia needs to diversify its economy to be less oil-reliant and they have plenty of chances of doing that in this forum,” Ismar said, alluding to the Vision 2030 reform plan aimed at diversifying the Kingdom’s economy away from hydrocarbons.

Saudi Aramco and Indonesia’s state-owned Pertamina recently agreed to work together on the possibility of developing a clean ammonia and hydrogen value chain, as both Riyadh and Jakarta prioritize efforts on transitioning toward renewable energy sources.

“I’m guessing there will be plenty more to come between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. Cooperation between the two countries was previously more on political and culture, but it is now rapidly shifting into economics,” Ismar added.

 


Two Indian military jets crash, one injured pilot found: police

Two Indian military jets crash, one injured pilot found: police
Updated 5 min 28 sec ago

Two Indian military jets crash, one injured pilot found: police

Two Indian military jets crash, one injured pilot found: police

NEW DELHI: Two Indian Air Force fighter jets crashed Saturday in an apparent mid-air collision while on exercises around 300 kilometers (185 miles) south of the capital New Delhi, police at the crash site told AFP.
Both aircraft had taken off in the morning from the Gwailor air base, around 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of where they came down.
“We have located the wreckage of one of the planes and found an injured pilot in the Pahadgarh forests,” officer Dharmender Gaur told AFP from the scene of the crash.
“The other plane has likely fallen further away from the site and we have sent teams to locate it.”
The air force was investigating whether the planes had collided in mid-air, local broadsheet the Hindustan Times reported.
The Su-30 was carrying two pilots and the Mirage jet had one on takeoff, according to the report.
“I have instructed the local administration to cooperate with the air force in quick rescue and relief work,” Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan tweeted.
“I pray to god that the pilots of the planes are safe.”
The crash is the latest in a string of aviation accidents involving India’s military air fleet.
Five army soldiers were killed last October when their helicopter crashed in Arunachal Pradesh state, near the country’s militarised and disputed border with China.
It was the second military chopper crash in the state that month, coming weeks after a Cheetah helicopter came down near the town of Tawang, killing its pilot.
India’s defense chief, General Bipin Rawat, was among 13 people killed when his Russian-made Mi-17 helicopter crashed while transporting him to an air force base in December 2021.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is grappling with the urgent task of overhauling India’s outdated armed forces.
Its military establishment is fretting over a growing assertiveness by China along its vast Himalayan frontier, which in 2019 sparked a lingering diplomatic freeze after a deadly high-altitude confrontation between troops of both countries.
India unveiled its first locally built aircraft carrier last year as part of government efforts to build an indigenous defense industry and reduce reliance on Russia, historically its most important arms supplier.
An effort to reform military recruitment to trim down India’s bloated defense payroll stalled last year after a backlash from aspiring soldiers, who burned train carriages and clashed with police in fierce protests.

Related


Senior US general warns of possible looming war with China

Senior US general warns of possible looming war with China
Updated 28 January 2023

Senior US general warns of possible looming war with China

Senior US general warns of possible looming war with China
  • “I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me we will fight in 2025,” says US Air Mobility Command chief
  • Says Taiwan’s presidential elections next year would offer China an excuse for military aggression

WASHINGTON: A four-star US Air Force general has warned of a conflict with China as early as 2025 — most likely over Taiwan — and urged his commanders to push their units to achieve maximum operational battle readiness this year.
In an internal memorandum that first emerged on social media on Friday, and was later confirmed as genuine by the Pentagon, the head of the Air Mobility Command, General Mike Minihan, said the main goal should be to deter “and, if required, defeat” China.
“I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me we will fight in 2025,” Minihan said.
Laying out his reasoning, Minihan said Taiwan’s presidential elections next year would offer Chinese President Xi Jinping an excuse for military aggression, while the United States would be distracted by its own contest for the White House.
“Xi’s team, reason, and opportunity are all aligned for 2025,” he added.
The memorandum also calls on all Mobile Command personnel to go to the firing range, “fire a clip” into a target and “aim for the head.”
A Pentagon spokesperson responded to an AFP email query about the memo saying, “Yes, it’s factual that he sent that out.”
Senior US officials have said in recent months that China appears to be speeding up its timeframe to seize control of Taiwan, a self-governing democracy claimed by Beijing.
China staged major military exercises in August last year, seen as a trial run for an invasion after a defiant visit of solidarity to Taipei by then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who at the time was second in line to the White House.
The United States switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979 but sells weapons to Taiwan for its self-defense.
A growing number of US lawmakers have called for ramping up assistance, including sending direct military aid to Taiwan, saying that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine underscores the need for early preparation.
 


Biden names former Covid aide as new White House chief of staff

Biden names former Covid aide as new White House chief of staff
Updated 28 January 2023

Biden names former Covid aide as new White House chief of staff

Biden names former Covid aide as new White House chief of staff
  • Biden has not yet declared he is running again but is widely expected to do so, potentially pitting him again against Trump in 2024

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden on Friday named his former top Covid-19 aide Jeff Zients to White House chief of staff — one of the most crucial positions in an administration gearing up for a likely re-election campaign.
Zients replaces Ron Klain, who saw Biden through the first two years of his term in the post, arguably the most powerful behind-the-scenes job in any US administration. The swap will take place on February 8, a day after Biden delivers his State of the Union address to Congress.
The departure of Klain, who has worked with Biden throughout his decades-long Washington career — from senator to vice president, then victor over Donald Trump in 2020 — will deprive the 80-year-old president of an especially close, trusted aide.
Chiefs of staff do everything from managing access to the president, setting his agenda, communicating with political power brokers and acting as a constant crisis manager and sounding board for ideas.
“During the last 36 years, Ron and I have been through some real battles together. And when you’re in the trenches with somebody for as long as I have been with Ron, you really get to know the person. You see what they’re made of,” Biden said in a statement.
Klain is credited with masterminding the intricate, behind-the-scenes negotiations between the White House and lawmakers in Congress that has seen Biden get a string of landmark bills passed, often against expectations in the last two years.
Until November’s midterm elections, Democrats held a razor-thin majority in both houses of Congress and Klain was instrumental in preventing the various party factions from splitting at key moments.
On Twitter, Biden described Klain as a “once in a generation talent with fierce intellect and heart.”

Zients, who oversaw the vast Covid-19 pandemic response when Biden took office, is considered a skilled technocrat, who does not have the deep political connections of Klain but will aim to make sure that the earlier legislative victories are followed through.
“A big task ahead is now implementing the laws we’ve gotten passed efficiently and fairly,” Biden said.
“When I ran for office, I promised to make government work for the American people. That’s what Jeff does,” Biden said. “I’m confident that Jeff will continue Ron’s example of smart, steady leadership.”
Biden has not yet declared he is running again but is widely expected to do so, potentially pitting him again against Trump in 2024.
Zients will also be taking over just as Republicans flex their muscles in the House of Representatives, where they won their own tiny majority in November. With the hard-right of the party in the ascendant, Biden is due to face a series of aggressive investigations into his policies and the business activities of his son Hunter.
Biden is also currently embroiled in a Justice Department probe after the discovery of a small number of classified documents in his house and at a former office. The White House says the documents were accidentally mislaid after Biden’s time as vice president to Barack Obama.
Trump is also under investigation for handling secret documents, although in his case they number in the hundreds and the Republican repeatedly refused to cooperate with authorities on the matter.

 


Murder of Filipina worker in Kuwait sends shockwave through Philippines

Murder of Filipina worker in Kuwait sends shockwave through Philippines
Updated 28 January 2023

Murder of Filipina worker in Kuwait sends shockwave through Philippines

Murder of Filipina worker in Kuwait sends shockwave through Philippines
  • Jullebee Ranara’s charred remains were discovered in a desert in Kuwait on Sunday
  • In 2018 and 2020, the Philippines banned worker deployment to Kuwait after murder cases

MANILA: The murder of a Filipina worker whose body was found in a desert in Kuwait has sent a shockwave through the Philippines, where a two-week vigil will begin after her remains return to the country on Friday.

Jullebee Ranara, 35, was one of more than 268,000 overseas Filipino workers — mostly women employed as domestic helpers — living in Kuwait.

Her charred remains were discovered in a desert on Sunday. Kuwaiti media reported that she was pregnant and had been subjected to blunt-force trauma. The 17-year-old son of her employer has been arrested by Kuwaiti police on murder charges.

Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople declined to comment on the causes of Ranara’s death until after the National Bureau of Investigation has conducted an autopsy.  

“There are many speculations as to the cause of death and motives behind it. The family has requested for an autopsy,” she said in a media briefing on Friday.

“What is important is the police acted quickly. The primary suspect is under the custody of the Kuwaiti police, and we are closely monitoring the case.”

A vigil for Ranara is going to begin after her remains are repatriated on Friday evening.

“We are hopeful that her wake will start by Sunday,” Ople told reporters.

“According to the husband, they would like the wake scheduled for two weeks to give time for relatives and friends who are in the province to pay their respect.”

The news of her death was “dreadful” for former OFWs like Maria Nida Dizon.

“What they did to her is inhuman. She went to Kuwait to work, carrying in her suitcase every hope for a better life, only to meet a gruesome death,” she told Arab News.     

FASTFACT

In 2018 and 2020, the Philippines banned worker deployment to Kuwait after murder cases.

“Based on my own experience, protection for OFWs, especially when it comes to our rights, is hardly felt by migrant workers. There is no guarantee that justice will be given to them when they get abused.”

Dizon, who used to work in the UAE, did not think that Ranara’s case would deter Philippine workers from seeking employment abroad, where they can earn much more than at home.

“Many cases of abuse have been reported, but our countrymen still want to try (to work abroad), especially women, mothers mostly,” she said.

“They think that they can help the family more if they work outside.”

While the migrant workers secretary said Philippine authorities would work with Kuwait to introduce better screening and accreditation mechanisms for employers, Rick Hernandez, a local administration worker in Manila, was now sure he would prevent his family members from working as domestic helpers abroad.

“A lot of Filipinos, especially our women, are willing to brave harsh climes and abusive employers just to provide for their loved ones,” he said.

“As a father and husband, I would rather starve here rather than send my daughter or wife to toil as menials in a faraway country.”   

Kuwait’s Ambassador to the Philippines Musaed Saleh Al-Thwaikh said on Friday that Kuwaiti society was also “shocked and saddened” by the incident.

“Our justice system will not lose sight in ensuring justice for Mrs. Ranara,” he wrote in a letter addressed to Ople.

“We assure you that such an incident is an isolated case.”

Ranara’s murder, however, was not the first such incident in Kuwait that shook the Philippines, which in 2018 imposed a worker deployment ban to the Gulf country after the killing of Filipina domestic helper Joanna Daniela Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer at an abandoned apartment.     

The ban was partially lifted the same year, after the two countries signed a protection agreement for workers.   

In May 2019, Filipina maid Constancia Lago Dayag was killed in Kuwait, and a few months later, another one, Jeanelyn Villavende, was tortured by her employer to death.   

The Philippines again imposed a worker deployment ban in January 2020, which was lifted when Kuwaiti authorities charged Villavende’s employer with murder and sentenced her to hanging.

 


Denmark in talks with Israel to replace howitzers donated to Ukraine

Defense Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen. (Wikipedia)
Defense Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen. (Wikipedia)
Updated 28 January 2023

Denmark in talks with Israel to replace howitzers donated to Ukraine

Defense Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen. (Wikipedia)

COPENHAGEN: After pledging all 19 of its French-made Caesar howitzers to Ukraine, Denmark is in talks with Israeli arms maker Elbit Systems for new mobile artillery to plug a “critical gap.”
The Defense Ministry said that negotiations were on “with the manufacturer Elbit Systems for the delivery of ATMOS artillery pieces and PULS rocket launcher systems as soon as possible.”
The equipment could be delivered this year, the government said.
“The rocket launchers complement the new artillery systems,” the ministry said.

BACKGROUND

Denmark had ordered 15 mobile long-range howitzers from French company Nexter in 2017, and four more in 2019.

Denmark had ordered 15 mobile long-range howitzers from French company Nexter in 2017, and four more in 2019.
But deliveries have been delayed and only a few have arrived. All of them have been pledged to Ukraine.
The system can carry 36 155 mm shells and reach targets at distances of up to 40 km.
ATMOS can fire six shots per minute and can be mounted on most off-road 8X8 trucks.
The next acquisitions are “important for Denmark’s defense and for Denmark to be able to meet its NATO commitments,” Defense Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen said.
“The donation to Ukraine leaves a critical capability gap in defense,” he said.
According to Danish media, Nexter advised Denmark against changing suppliers, saying it could provide new artillery.
“Caesar has proven itself on the battlefield in Ukraine, Danish soldiers can use them and the parts are compatible with Danish military IT systems,” a spokesman for the group said.