Diplomats from the Group of 20 nations have hammered out compromise language on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, overcoming differences between Moscow and the rest of the group that had threatened to derail hopes of a joint communique from this weekend’s summit.

The phrasing is broadly similar to that agreed at last year’s summit in Bali, Indonesia, according to people familiar with the discussions. They asked not to be identified to describe internal deliberations.

The language still must be approved by G-20 leaders, but that’s seen as likely now that senior staff have agreed on the language, they said.

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The US and its allies had sought tougher phrasing to denounce what they see as Russia’s aggression. Moscow had resisted, seeking to weaken the reference, and for a time enjoyed the support of China. 

The final statement is expected to directly refer to Russia’s war “in” Ukraine, rather than the “against Ukraine” phrasing that the US and its allies had sought. The other main sticking points centred on how to reflect different views on sanctions — some other G-20 members share Russia’s opposition to them — and how to define a “just peace” for Ukraine.

Negotiations over the phrasing had run nearly around the clock in recent days and the preliminary agreement came as the leaders were beginning the formal G-20 sessions Saturday in New Delhi.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak earlier singled out China for blocking efforts to achieve consensus, telling Bloomberg News on the plane to India that the talks in the run-up to the two-day summit had been “challenging.” 

Russia had accused the US and its allies of pressuring India over the language, though New Delhi had been pushing hard to ensure agreement on a communique.

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Last year’s G-20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, witnessed similar tensions over climate and the war before leaders managed to produce a joint statement on both issues. Since then, however, US-China ties have continued to spiral while the BRICS grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa agreed to expand the club to 11 members, in a sign of resistance to the US-led world order epitomised by the G-7. 

Sunak said the UK would “continue to make the case” to China that “what Russia is doing is wrong, and why it’s right to support Ukraine, particularly when it comes to food security.” 

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