03:48 GMT30 September 2020
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    OSAKA, Japan (Sputnik) - The leaders of the Group of Twenty (G20) are gathering in Japan's second largest city Osaka for a two-day summit.

    Japan will be hosting the meeting on Friday and Saturday for the first time since the G20 inaugural meeting convened in Berlin 20 years ago in response to the series of financial crises that hit emerging markets back in the late 1990s.

    The summits' primary goal, the governance of the global economy, will be in the focus of the Osaka meeting along with a variety of international issues, including the rise of protectionism worldwide, the growing role of digital economies, economic repercussions of the United Kingdom's upcoming exit from the European Union and many others.

    Trump, Xi to Meet as Trade War Rages on

    As with previous G20 summits, the most impactful meetings will be taking place on the sidelines of the official events. All eyes will be set on the meeting between US President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping since Beijing and Washington have been locked in a nearly year-long trade dispute, which has already resulted in multi-billion mutual tariffs and hit producers on both sides — from US farmers to China's tech giant Huawei.

    In an interview with Fox Business ahead of his departure for Osaka, Trump did not rule out the possibility that a deal could be reached during his meeting with Xi later in the week, while also warning that he was ready to impose "substantial additional tariffs" on China if the two countries failed to come to an agreement.

    "We are now taking in billions and billions of dollars, and I've only done phase one: 25 percent on $250 billion. Phase two does not have to be 25 percent, it can be 10 percent, which people can absolutely handle," Trump said.

    The US president also said he had no Plan B in dealing with China as his "Plan B is to take in billions and billions of dollars a month," all the while the United States would "do less and less business with them."

    There is still hope that the Trump-Xi talks will bear positive results. The South China Morning Post newspaper reported on Thursday, citing sources, that China and the United States had tentatively agreed to announce truce during the G20 summit.

    According to the outlet, the details of the relevant agreement have been preliminary included in the press releases on the leaders' meeting in Osaka. Moreover, one of the newspaper's sources said that Trump's decision to suspend the imposition of new tariffs on Chinese goods was his "price" for the possibility to have talks with Xi at G20.

    The leader of the G20 host country, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, voiced hope that a constructive solution to the US-China standoff could be found at the summit. Abe also noted that he wanted the Osaka meetings to help promote free trade, as well as help determine regulations for digital economy.

    Russia, US to Search for Common Ground

    One of the biggest intrigues in the run-up to the G20 summit was whether Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin would hold a meeting in Osaka. Trump has repeatedly reiterated his intention to meet with Putin, while the Kremlin has been assuring media that Moscow has not yet received any official proposals from the United States.

    The mystery was finally unravelled on Wednesday when Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov announced that the two leaders would meet at 2:00 p.m. local time (05:00 GMT) on Friday, after the first session of the summit. According to the official, the meeting may last for nearly one hour in the presence of the countries' delegations comprising from four to five people. No one-on-one conversation is expected to take place.

    At the same time, the White House's document says that the meeting is scheduled to last for one hour and a half.

    The agenda of the talks, according to the presidential aide, is quite broad, ranging from the state of bilateral relations to strategic stability and regional conflicts, including, in particular, those related to Syria, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Venezuela and Iran.

    In November, Trump cancelled his planned talks with Putin right before the G20 summit kicked off in Buenos Aires over the incident between Russia and Ukraine in the Kerch Strait. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted that Washington had not demanded that Russia liberate the Ukrainian sailors as a precondition for the talks.

    Putin to Meet with Abe Amid Stalled Peace Treaty Talks

    The Russian leader will also have talks with the Japanese prime minister on Saturday in the context of the stalled peace treaty negotiations between the two countries.

    The two leaders agreed in Singapore last year to step up the negotiations on the long-pending peace treaty, but there has been little progress on the issue ever since and the territorial dispute over four southern Kuril islands — Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai — remains the main stumbling rock in bilateral relations.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reaffirmed after the latest round of ministerial talks in Tokyo that, despite frequent meetings, many problems and differences souring the relations still persisted.

    Peskov announced earlier this week that the two leaders would sign a range of bilateral agreements at the G20 summit. Kremlin aide Ushakov later told reporters that Igor Sechin, the head of Russian oil giant Rosneft, and Alexey Miller, the head of Russian energy company Gazprom, will attend the Putin-Abe talks in Osaka.

    Other Meetings to Watch

    According to the Kremlin, Putin will also hold bilateral meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday, and with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday. He will also have an informal trilateral meeting with the Chinese and Indian leaders on Friday.

    The Russian president's talks with the European leaders are expected to touch upon the Minsk process on Ukraine, the ongoing crisis in Syria, as well as the situation around Iran and its nuclear deal, according to the Kremlin.

    After the G20 events, the Russian leader will have bilateral talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

    In addition, the Russian president will meet with outgoing UK Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday. The relations between the two countries continue to be tense after the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia last March, blamed on the Russian military intelligence. Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations and pointed out to the lack of evidence of its involvement in the incident.

    Yet, a spokesman for May told reporters on Wednesday that the prime minister sought to deliver a message of the country's readiness for "a different relationship," though the meeting itself would not represent normalization in relations between Russia and the United Kingdom.

    Trump is also having a rather rich agenda in Osaka. Apart from talks with Putin and Xi, Trump is scheduled to meet with the Japanese and Indian prime ministers, the Saudi crown prince, the Turkish and Brazilian presidents.

    His meeting with Erdogan would be particularly newsworthy, considering the tensions between the two nations over Ankara's plans to procure Russia's S-400 air defence systems and the US threats to impose sanctions over the move. 

    Iranian Issue

    G20 leaders will hardly ignore the tensions around Iran that flared up following the incidents with oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman earlier in June and in May, which Washington pinned on Tehran and the downing of the US drone by the Iranian forces.

    The United States claims that the unmanned aircraft was shot down over international waters, while Tehran says that the drone was downed after it crossed into the Iranian airspace.

    After the incident, Trump stopped just minutes short of striking Iran in retaliation. This and the US president's most recent threats to obliterate Iran will likely make up the agenda of the G20 bilateral and multilateral meetings, including those of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Iran's main rival in the region.

    US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook indicated on Monday that the tankers incident would be likely addressed in Osaka in the context of a "new initiative" to internationalize efforts aimed at ensuring the security of shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz.

    Bloomberg reported, citing sources, that the initiative stipulates financial and material contributions on the part of the nations operating in the strait. There has been no official confirmation of the reports so far.

    The meetings in Osaka also precedes the meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries from July 1-2, which will be attended by the Russian and Saudi oil ministers. Global oil policies will therefore likely become another topic of the high-level discussions in Japan.

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    leaders, tensions, Iran, US-China trade war, trade war, G20 Summit, G20, Japan, Osaka
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