India hands over G20 presidency to Brazil as summit ends in New Delhi

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called an end to the G20 summit in New Delhi on Sunday by passing on the ceremonial gavel to Brazil, which will assume the presidency of the group next year.

“I want to congratulate Brazil’s president and my friend Lula da Silva, and hand over the presidency’s gavel to him,” Mr Modi said.

Taking over the mantle, Mr da Silva said geopolitical issues should not derail G20 discussions, in reference to the diplomatic wrangling over the Ukraine war.

“We cannot let geopolitical issues sequester the G20 agenda of discussions,” Mr da Silva said. “We have no interest in a divided G20. We need peace and co-operation instead of conflict.”

He also said Russian President Vladimir Putin would be invited to next year’s event and he would not be arrested if he attends the meeting in Rio de Janeiro.

Mr da Silva said he plans to attend a Brics meeting in Russia before the Rio meeting.

He also said he hopes to rebuild Brazil’s standing after a period of international isolation under far-right former leader Jair Bolsonaro.

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The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against Mr Putin in March, accusing him of the war crime of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine.

Russia has denied its forces have engaged in war crimes, or forcibly taken Ukrainian children.

Mr Putin has repeatedly skipped international gatherings, and sent Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to the G20 in New Delhi.

During the two-day summit, the G20 adopted a consensus declaration that included commitments on several issues such as food and energy security, climate change and global debt vulnerabilities.

Mr Modi also proposed a “virtual summit” at the end of November to assess the status of the suggestions and proposals.

From left, French President Emmanuel Macron, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visit Raj Ghat memorial. Reuters

From left, French President Emmanuel Macron, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visit Raj Ghat memorial. Reuters

Diplomatic victory
On Saturday, the G20 had adopted a consensus declaration that avoided condemning Russia for the war in Ukraine but called on all states not to use force to grab territory.

Mr Lavrov claimed diplomatic victory on Sunday, declaring a G20 summit in India a “success” after the bloc shied away from direct criticism of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We were able to prevent the West’s attempts to ‘Ukrainize’ the summit agenda,” Mr Lavrov said as the two-day meeting of leaders closed.

“The text doesn’t mention Russia at all,” he said.

Mr Lavrov also said Russia was willing to return to the Black Sea grain deal as soon as its conditions are met.

Russia quit the deal in July, a year after it was brokered by the UN and Turkey, claiming that its own food and fertiliser exports faced obstacles and insufficient Ukrainian grain was going to countries in need.

“The Indian presidency has really managed to coalesce G20 members from the global south,” Mr Lavrov added, suggesting that Moscow’s fellow Brics members Brazil, South Africa, India and China had made their voices heard.

G20 leaders on Saturday papered over deep divisions related to Russia’s invasion of its neighbour in February of last year – alluding to the problems caused by the war, but not blaming Moscow.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman speak during a session as part of the G20 Leaders’ Summit at the Bharat Mandapam in New Delhi on September 9, 2023. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP)
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman speak during a session as part of the G20 Leaders’ Summit at the Bharat Mandapam in New Delhi on September 9, 2023. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP)
Bilateral meetings
A series of bilateral meetings dominated the two-day summit.

On Sunday, Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan met Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The two presidents discussed relations and energy co-operation between Turkey and Egypt, as well as regional and global issues.

Relations between the two countries broke down in 2013 after Egypt’s then-army chief Mr Sisi led the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, an ally of Ankara.

The day before, Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni met with Chinese Premier Li Qiang to “consolidate and deepen” relations.

Rome is considering abandoning Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Neither government mentioned the initiative in brief statements after the meeting in New Delhi, the first between Ms Meloni and Mr Li.

But perhaps the most significant meeting of all was that between Mr Modi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday, according to reports.

India and Saudi Arabia are likely to sign an initial energy co-operation agreement following the two leaders’ lunchtime meeting.

The agreement is expected to focus on co-operation in energy efficiency, renewable energy, hydrogen and grid interconnection between the countries.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden arrive with other world leaders to pay their respects at the Mahatma Gandhi memorial in New Delhi on Sunday. AFP
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden arrive with other world leaders to pay their respects at the Mahatma Gandhi memorial in New Delhi on Sunday. AFP
Gandhi memorial
Earlier in the day, amid heavy rain in the capital, G20 leaders paid their respects to Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi.

Some, including British PM Rishi Sunak and last year’s G20 host President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, walked to the memorial barefoot in a customary show of respect.

US President Joe Biden and others wore slippers as they walked over the wet ground spotted with puddles.

The leaders stood before wreaths placed around the memorial, which features an eternal flame and was draped with orange and yellow marigold garlands.

On Saturday, the group welcomed the African Union as a member, part of a drive to uplift the global south.