World leaders arrive in Buenos Aires ahead of tension-filled G20 summit

Published On: November 30, 2018 11:30 AM NPT By: Agencies

WASHINGTON, Nov 30: The leaders of the world’s twenty industrialized nations are arriving to Argentina's capital of Buenos Aires ahead of the upcoming G20 summit slated for November 30 – December 1.

The Leaders' Summit comes amid escalation in the trade war between the United States and China, a naval incident between Ukraine and Russia and a growing pressure on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who is being suspected of ordering the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Tensions ran high ahead of the scheduled meeting between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump went back and forth on potentially canceling the meeting throughout the week after the Kerch Strait incident between Russia and Ukraine. Kremlin later announced that the White House had confirmed the meeting.

On Thursday, however, Trump wrote on Twitter that he had decided to cancel the talks after receiving a full report on the naval incident in the Black Sea. Trump’s announcement came less than an hour after he told reporters before boarding a plane to Argentina that it was a "very good time" to meet with Putin.

The Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow regrets the decision of the US administration to cancel the planned meeting because it delays the discussion of pressing international and bilateral issues for an uncertain period of time. He added that Putin is ready for holding talks with his US counterpart.

The Kerch Strait incident took place on Sunday when Russian authorities detained three Ukrainian naval vessels that tried to illegally pass through the strait connecting the Black Sea to the Azov Sea. Putin said that the incident was a provocation to improve the low approval rating of Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko ahead of the presidential election.

President Putin is due to meet with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Friday morning for his first bilateral meeting at the summit. The two presidents plan to discuss the situations in Syria, Libya and Ukraine, as well as US, plans to leave the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, according to Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov.

Following the meeting with Macron, Putin is scheduled to attend a meeting with the leaders of BRICS, the association of five major emerging national economies — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The Russian president is also set to hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday.

On Saturday, Putin will have a breakfast with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, followed by a round of talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. According to Ushakov, Putin and Abe will discuss the establishment of а mechanism for negotiations on the Kuril Islands.

The G20 summit is taking place amid mounting pressure from western countries to hold to account Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has been widely suspected of being directly involved in the murder of Washington Post columnist Khashoggi on October 2.

The international advocacy group Human Rights Watch announced in a statement on Wednesday that an Argentine federal prosecutor had agreed to take up a case against the Saudi crown prince, who arrived in Buenos Aires on November 28.

Mohammed bin Salman is scheduled to attend the summit and hold a number of talks with world leaders, including the Russian president. According to the Kremlin, the two leaders will discuss Yemen and Syria developments during their meeting on Saturday.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday that he is ready to meet with the Saudi crown prince on the sidelines of the G20 summit as part of his efforts to restart peace talks on Yemen.

However, US President Donald Trump has no plans to hold a bilateral meeting with bin Salman because his schedule "is full to overflowing," National Security Advisor John Bolton said on Tuesday.

While being under investigation, the Saudi crown prince will have full immunity during his visit to Argentina, Argentine Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Raimondi told Sputnik on Thursday.

President Trump is expected to meet with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on December 1 on the sidelines of the G20 summit as the trade war between the two countries enters a new stage.

Earlier this week, Trump said that he would slap tariffs on an additional $267 billion worth of Chinese imports if he fails to make a deal at a meeting with Xi in Buenos Aires. The US president has also said the trade deal "could happen."

China and the United States have been embroiled in a trade dispute since Trump unveiled new steel and aluminum import duties in March. Tensions escalated in May when the Trump administration announced that $50 billion worth of Chinese goods would be subject to 25 percent tariffs, prompting retaliation from Beijing. Since then, the Trump administration has imposed tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods with China responding by imposing reciprocal tariffs.

The pre-summit activities began on Monday with two-track meetings of finance deputies and the so-called sherpas. Anti-corruption, education, employment, climate sustainability and energy transitions were on the agenda as well as major finance-related issues that will be brought up at the summit.

The G20 finance ministers said they plan to meet on Thursday evening for an annual dinner to conclude the work of the finance track.

The Leaders' Summit will kick off on Friday at 10:30 a.m. local time (13:30 GMT) with leaders arriving to the Costa Salguero Convention Center in Buenos Aires.

The plenary session is scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. (15:30 GMT) with Argentine President Mauricio Marci giving opening remarks.

The plenary session will be followed by working sessions, which will continue into Saturday. Macri is scheduled to give a press conference at 2:45pm local time, to brief on the summit's main conclusions.

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in a protest against the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, according to local media.

The Infobae news portal reported that the traffic on the main avenue of the Argentine capital was shut down for two hours on Wednesday amid mass protests.

Participants of the demonstrations marched along Buenos Aires’s streets carrying banners with slogans protesting the summit, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the administration of Argentine President Mauricio Macri.

Argentine public organizations have also taken part in the demonstrations, with the rally hosted by activist group MOCASE Via Campesina having brought together about 50,000 people at a stadium.

According to local media reports, protests against the G20 summit are expected to continue into Friday.

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