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How missiles in Europe dominated a Bali summit

2023-06-08 04:17:19 [Press center8] source:Al Jazeera

It was meant to be Indonesia's big reopening party after the pandemic, a chance to show the world it was ready for business and poised for recovery.

But in the end, even the best efforts by the host of the G20 Bali summit to keep things on track were no match for a barrage of missiles fired half a world away.

On Tuesday night, world leaders sat down for dinner and a lavish concert featuring traditional Balinese dancers and eye-popping laser projections on towering cliffs.

Several kilometres away, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was heading towards Ngurah Rai airport. At 21:35 local time (13:35 GMT), he took off in his plane.

Organisers said it was a scheduled departure. But it also happened just as Russia fired scores of missiles into Ukraine, hitting key power infrastructure in Kyiv and other cities and killing at least one person.

Then, hours later, came troubling reports of two missiles landing in Poland near the border with Ukraine - raising the possibility that Russia may have attacked a Nato member.

As officials in Europe and the US scrambled to figure out the situation, US President Joe Biden was roused from his slumber in Bali.

He and his team swung into action. As Mr Biden got on the phone with Polish leader Andrzej Duda and Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called his Polish and Ukrainian counterparts.

The leaders of the G7 nations - all present in Bali - were then summoned for an emergency hour-long meeting to the Grand Hyatt, where Mr Biden was staying. Afterwards, Mr Biden told reporters he believed it was "unlikely" the missile that landed in Poland came from Russia, while condemning Moscow for "totally unconscionable" strikes on Ukraine.

Mr Biden and many leaders then rushed to a scheduled G20 event at a Balinese mangrove forest. It was a surreal, whiplash moment, going from tense discussions on the Ukraine war straight into a cheery photo-op planting trees.

Even as they smiled for the cameras while touring the forest, some could be seen breaking off in private discussions. Mr Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron, a key player in attempts to broker peace in Ukraine, stayed close to each other, with Mr Macron furrowing his brow in one particular intense chat.

Wednesday was meant to be a day of diplomacy, with a series of carefully orchestrated bilateral meetings held among the various leaders.

Those schedules were thrown out of the window with some meetings cancelled, including one between UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Instead, Mr Sunak jumped on a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Canada's leader Justin Trudeau.

In the afternoon, the much anticipated final communique of the G20 leaders was released.

One big question had been whether members would agree to any kind of unified condemnation of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The statement said that "most members" condemned the invasion and acknowledged that others had different views - an obvious accommodation of Russia, as well as China and India which have refrained from condemning Moscow's actions.

But right at the top it also quoted a strongly-worded UN declaration which "deplores in the strongest terms" Russia's actions and demands its "complete and unconditional withdrawal".

Some leaders have painted this as a win, given that the statement was not vetoed by Russia.

In the end, while Indonesia's President Joko Widodo tried to keep the focus of the summit on other key issues such as climate change, the Ukraine war still ended up casting a long shadow.

But if nothing else, it did result in a notable degree of consensus and unity in a time of deep divisions.

(editor-in-charge:Press center6)

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