At G20 summit, U.S. and Europe blast Russia over Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin is attending the meeting and he almost certain to come under intense diplomatic pressure to change tack on Ukraine.

At G20 summit, U.S. and Europe blast Russia over Ukraine

World Bulletin/News Desk

Western leaders attending a G20 summit blasted Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday for the crisis in Ukraine, threatening further sanctions if Russia did not withdraw troops and weapons from its neighbouring nation.

U.S. President Barack Obama said Russian aggression against Ukraine was a threat to the world, while the European Council demanded Moscow put pressure on rebels there to accept a ceasefire.

Speaking on the sidelines of the summit in Brisbane, Obama placed security and climate change at the centre stage of the leaders meeting, overshadowing talks on how to lift flagging global economic growth.

Obama said the United States was at the forefront of "opposing Russia's aggression against Ukraine, which is a threat to the world, as we saw in the appalling shoot-down of MH17".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the European Union was considering further financial sanctions against Russian individuals because of the crisis in Ukraine.

"The present situation is not satisfying," Merkel told reporters at the summit. "At present the listing of further persons is on the agenda."

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, also at the G20 summit, said Europe's foreign ministers will meet on Monday to assess the situation in Ukraine and whether further steps including additional sanctions were needed against Russia.

Putin's isolation at the G20 summit was evident with his placing on the outer edge for the formal leaders photograph. While Obama and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping were met by Australia's govenor general and attorney general when they arrived in Brisbane, Putin was met by the assistant defence minister.

Despite being under intense pressure, Putin was all smiles, shaking hands with host Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who had threatened to "shirt front", or physically confront, him over the downing of Malaysian airliner MH17 over Ukraine, in which 28 Australians died.

A Kremlin spokesman said the Ukraine crisis was the only topic discussed at a one-on-one meeting between Putin and British Prime Minister David Cameron, but he added both expressed interest in "ending confrontation" and rebuilding relations. Putin also met French President Francois Hollande, and both agreed to protect their ties from the effects of sanctions, the spokesman said. 

UKRAINIAN AUSTRALIANS PROTEST

Outside the summit, Ukrainian Australians staged an anti-Putin protest, wearing headbands reading "Putin, Killer".

Draped with the flags of the nations that lost citizens when the flight MH17 was shot down, the demonstrators lay on a large Ukrainian flag, in what they said was a protest at the "murderous acts" Russia's president was responsible for.

Russia denied it was involved in a recent escalation of military activity in Ukraine and said it supported the implementation of the ceasefire agreed in Minsk in September. "We are not involved," Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters, adding that leaders from Brazil, India, China and South Africa, fellow members of the BRICS group of nations, had offered their support.

G20 host Australia had hoped that the two-day summit would focus on global economic growth, not security or the environment. But the comments from Obama, Merkel and Van Rompuy suggest that security will remain the dominant theme.

Obama also said the United States would renew commitment to its strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific in comments seen as a veiled warning to China.

Obama insisted that Asia's security order must not be based on "coercion or intimidation ... where big nations bully the small, but on alliances for mutual security".

He did not explicitly point the finger at China, but there was little doubt that he was alluding to Beijing's maritime disputes and growing concern about its military build-up.

Despite Australia's reluctance to allow climate change on the summit agenda after it abolished a tax on carbon emissions, Obama spent a large part of his speech urging action on the environment. He pledged a $3 billion U.S. contribution to an international fund to help poor countries cope with the effects of climate change.

Earlier this week, Obama announced a climate deal with China, pledging to cut U.S. greenhouse emissions while China will aim for a peak in emissions by 2030.

Highlighting Australia's exposure to climate change, Obama said longer droughts and more wildfires were likely.

"The incredible natural glory of the Great Barrier Reef is threatened. Worldwide this past summer was the hottest on record. No nation is immune and every nation has a responsibility to do its part," he said.

But Australia stuck to its economic script.

A plan to increase global economic growth by an additional 2 percentage points over the next five years was on track, Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey said.

"This ambition translates into about $2 trillion in additional global economic activity and millions of new jobs," he said.

Last Mod: 15 Kasım 2014, 12:52
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