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Modi opens G20 summit amid deep divisions over Ukraine war

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends the second session 'One Family' of the G20 summit in New Delhi on September 9, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inaugurated the annual meeting of the Group of 20 (G20), amid the bloc’s deep divisions over the ongoing war in Ukraine.

The two-day summit began on Saturday, with Modi calling on members to end a “global trust deficit”, while announcing that the bloc was granting full membership to the African Union (AU).

“Today, as the president of G20, India calls upon the entire world to first convert this global trust deficit into one trust and one confidence,” he said. “It is time for all of us to move together.”

Modi further invited the AU, represented by Chairperson Azali Assoumani, to take a seat as a permanent member.

“This will strengthen the G20 and also strengthen the voice of the Global South,” Modi said in a message on his official account on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

The meeting took place as the group is deeply divided over the war in Ukraine, with Western nations pushing for strong condemnation of Russia in the Leaders’ Declaration to be issued at the end of the summit, while others are demanding focus on broader economic issues.

One source was reported by Reuters as saying that a joint G20 declaration may or may not come to a unanimous agreement, adding that it could have paragraphs stating the views of different countries, or it could record agreement and dissent in one paragraph.

According to another senior source in one of the G20 countries, the paragraph on the war on Ukraine had been agreed by Western countries and sent to Russia for its views.

The differing views on the war in Ukraine have prevented agreement on even a single communique at ministerial meetings during India’s G20 presidency so far this year.

The G20 is an intergovernmental forum of the world's major developed and developing economies, comprised of 19 countries and the European Union (EU).

The bloc represents around 85 percent of the global GDP, over 75 percent of global trade, and about two-thirds of the world population – but South Africa is the only member from the continent.

India currently holds the G20 presidency, a position that rotates each year between the member states.

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