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G-20 foreign ministers, which includes Russia, China and the U.S., gather in Bali

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The island of Bali in Indonesia may be the scene of some awkward diplomatic encounters this week.

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Yeah. Foreign ministers of the Group of Twenty are gathering, and it includes Russia, China and the U.S. and they're making plans for a summit later this year. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is leading the U.S. delegation.

FADEL: NPR's diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen joins us now to talk about his plans. Good morning.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Good morning.

FADEL: So what is Blinken hoping to get out of these meetings?

KELEMEN: Well, for one, to avoid those awkward encounters with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. You know, the U.S. wants to keep the world focused and united against Russia's aggression in Ukraine and to isolate Russia diplomatically. Lavrov, of course, comes with different motives. But this is a group that's supposed to come together to tackle global issues, like food and energy security. And the war in Ukraine is making matters worse on both of those fronts. So the U.S. and its close partners in the G-20 want to make that point. And Blinken also doesn't want countries like China, for instance, coming to Russia's aid.

FADEL: OK. So Blinken may be trying to avoid Lavrov, but he will be meeting China's top diplomat. Have U.S. officials said anything about that?

KELEMEN: Yeah. So the assistant secretary of state for East Asia, Daniel Kritenbrink, says he expects the two men to have candid talks about Ukraine. But of course, there's much more at stake. Here's how he described Blinken's goals when he briefed us ahead of the trip.

DANIEL KRITENBRINK: Our top priority in the secretary's meeting with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi is to underscore our commitment to intense diplomacy and maintaining open lines of communication with the People's Republic of China. We have often stated that our goal is to manage responsibly the intense competition between the United States and the PRC.

KELEMEN: One big topic, of course, is the economic relationship. The Biden administration is considering lifting tariffs on China to ease inflation at home. But there are still lots of concerns about China's trade practices and, of course, its human rights record.

FADEL: And China is likely to push back on that, right?

KELEMEN: Yeah. I mean, Chinese officials often complain about U.S. tariffs and sanctions. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman this week accused Blinken of having a Cold War mentality. And when asked about Blinken's comments that China is trying to undermine the rules-based order, the spokesman said "these are a bunch of rules made by a handful of countries to serve the selfish interests of the U.S." That was a quote. So setting the stage for quite a testy meeting.

FADEL: Now, Indonesia is hosting this gathering. And as we mentioned, the foreign ministers are planning for a summit later this year. How much will the war in Ukraine overshadow all the work they want to do?

KELEMEN: Probably a lot. You know, this is a group that includes Western nations that have been imposing sanctions on Russia, as well as countries that are doing even more business with Russia right now. You know, think about India, South Africa and, of course, China. Blinken will be meeting his Indian counterpart as well. U.S. officials seem determined, really, to make the case that everyone needs to pressure Russia to end this war, to lift a blockade on Ukrainian ports so that the rest of the world doesn't suffer with food insecurity. You know, that's the same message really coming from other members like Germany's foreign minister, who says she wants to make sure that Russia doesn't use this meeting as a platform. She says it's in everyone's interest to ensure that countries adhere to international law.

FADEL: NPR's diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen, thank you so much.

KELEMEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

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