U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will call on Group of 20 members this week to put pressure on Russia to support UN efforts to reopen sea lanes blocked by the Ukraine conflict and repeat warnings to China not to support Moscow’s war effort.
Blinken heads to Asia on July 6 for a meeting of G20 foreign ministers in Bali on July 8. He is due to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, but no meeting is expected with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Ramin Toloui, the assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs, told reporters Blinken would raise energy security and a UN initiative to try to get Ukrainian and Russian foodstuffs and fertilizer back to global markets.
“G20 countries should hold Russia accountable and insist that it support ongoing UN efforts to reopen the sea lanes for grain delivery,” he said. “Whether that happens at the level of the G20, or the level of individual G20 countries, that’s an important point that Secretary Blinken will make,” Toloui said.
Ukraine has accused Russia of stealing its grain during the invasion and blockading its ports to keep grain from leaving the country, which has helped contribute to a global food shortage.
Ukraine, said this week it is holding talks with Turkey and the United Nations to secure guarantees for grain exports.
Moscow has denied taking Ukrainian grain but satellite images and GPS data have been used to back up the allegations that Russia has been transporting grain out of Ukraine through the Crimean port of Sevastopol. Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014.
The top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, Daniel Kritenbrink, said he expected a “candid” exchange on Ukraine in Blinken’s talks with China’s Wang.
“This will be another opportunity…to convey our expectations about what we would expect China to do and not to do in the context of Ukraine,” he said.
China has refused to condemn Russia’s actions and has criticized the sweeping sanctions. U.S. officials have warned of consequences should China start offering material support for Russia’s war effort.
“It’s absolutely critical that we have open lines of communication with our Chinese counterparts, particularly at the senior level…to ensure that we prevent any miscalculation that could lead inadvertently to conflict and confrontation,” Kritenbrink said.
Lavrov and Blinken have not met since before Moscow’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said now was not the right time for another meeting. “We would like to see the Russians be serious about diplomacy. We have not seen that yet,” he said.
Price did not rule out the possibility of a chance Blinken-Lavrov encounter in Bali, which would be their first since they last met in Geneva in January. Price declined to discuss what he called the “choreography” of the G20.