West targets Russia over Ukraine as testy G20 wraps up
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday shrugged off a hail of Western fire over the Ukraine crisis as G20 leaders wrapped up an annual summit focused on a drive to overhaul the global economy.
At the summit in Brisbane, Putin broke protocol by delivering remarks to the media before the host leader's closing news conference, and then flew out a little early.
The Russian strongman said "some of our views do not coincide, but the discussions were complete, constructive and very helpful".
Putin also thanked Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott for hosting the event, after the two leaders put aside days of sniping to share a photograph with cuddly koala bears.
While the Kremlin denied talk that Putin was walking out of the Brisbane meeting early out of pique at being ambushed over Ukraine, Western pressure redoubled earlier Sunday with a joint declaration from the United States, Australia and Japan.
The trio's leaders said after talks on the G20 margins that they were united in "opposing Russia's purported annexation of Crimea and its actions to destabilise eastern Ukraine, and bringing to justice those responsible for the downing of Flight MH17".
The West says the Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine in July, using a missile supplied by Russia.
Moscow angrily denies the charges.
The plane was carrying 298 people, including 38 Australian citizens and residents.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told Channel Ten that Putin had come "under quite some pressure" from a number of G20 leaders because of the downing of MH17 and Russia's behaviour towards Ukraine.
She noted that Australia had been monitoring the presence of four Russian warships off its northern coast in recent days during the G20, which Moscow had deployed "just to remind everyone that Russia has a navy, I assume".
The Group of 20 nations, which includes the United States and China, found agreement in vowing to "extinguish" the Ebola outbreak -- albeit without any promise of hard cash -- as it works to reboot growth in the world economy after the shock of the 2008 financial crisis.
The summit in Australia was set Sunday to issue a declaration that the leaders, who collectively represent 85 percent of global output, are committed to structural reforms that would lift economic growth by at least 2.
0 percent over the next five years.
That amounts to more than two trillion dollars, although economists are sceptical that many of the G20 members have the stomach for such reforms when growth is already slipping in some key countries, including China and Germany.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who held lengthy, late-night bilateral talks with Putin in Brisbane Saturday, told reporters that the tensions over Ukraine were hindering efforts to boost economic growth.
"It's clear that these geopolitical tensions, including relations with Russia, are not really conducive to promoting growth," she said.
"We are all striving to do everything diplomatically possible to see improvements.
"- 'Trench warfare' -Merkel was later Sunday due to join talks convened by Obama with the G20's European leaders, including those of Britain and France, to look at issues including Ukraine and transatlantic trade, US and European aides said.
Before his own tense meeting with Putin in Brisbane Saturday, British Prime Minister David Cameron said Russia faced a choice between leaving Ukraine alone or coming under even tougher sanctions from the West.
Obama and the European leaders have also come together in Australia to demand that the G20 commit to collective action against climate change.
That is counter to the pro-growth agenda promoted by summit host Abbott.
The Australian prime minister was putting up tough resistance to language on the climate proposed for the G20 communique by the US and Europeans, delegates said.
One European diplomat likened the negotiations to "trench warfare", but the pro-climate lobby is confident of victory after Obama breathed new life into global discussions on greenhouse emissions with a surprise pact with China last week.
Australia in contrast was making last-ditch attempts Sunday for the G20's powerful leaders to use all policy levers to rehabilitate global economies and generate prosperity, which could see their previous target of two percent growth bettered.
"Well, it certainly is the case that two percent target that we announced in Sydney (this year) has been met, but it will go further," Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey said.
"We cannot rest.
The world needs growth.
© 2014 AFP