SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey has confirmed Russian president Vladimir Putin will attend next month’s G20 summit in Brisbane. The Federal Government and Opposition have been highly critical of Russia’s response to the MH17 plane crash as well as its behaviour towards Ukraine.
Mr Hockey said Russia’s finance minister confirmed Mr Putin’s attendance during a “lengthy discussion” in Washington on Saturday.
“I certainly shared with him my views and the views of Australia about Russia’s activity in Ukraine,” he told the ABC’s Insiders program.
“He did confirm that president Putin will be coming to the G20 leaders’ summit in Brisbane and I think there will be some full and frank dialogue at that meeting.”
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, speaking at a news conference in Brisbane, said he understood that some Australians would be upset to see him shaking hands with Mr Putin at the event.
“I absolutely take that point,” he said.
“The G20 is an international gathering that operates by consensus – it’s not Australia’s right to say yes or no to individual members of the G20.
“I think it will be pretty crystal clear that we think that Russia needs to fully cooperate in the investigation into the MH17 atrocity.
“I think it’s the world’s expectation on Russia that there will be full cooperation with the investigation and there will be a willingness to hand over to police for trial anyone who Russia might have access to who turns out to have played a part in the downing of that aircraft.”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said while Mr Putin’s attendance will make many Australians “extremely uncomfortable”, he understands the Government cannot cancel his invitation to the talks.
“It is an international conference, not an Australian conference, so I understand the Government is in a difficult position,” he said.
“I am very disappointed the Abbott Government has gone from talking tough to trying to pretend Putin coming here isn’t an issue Australians are concerned about.
“It is disappointing that Abbott Government couldn’t use the leverage that hosting the G20 and holding a seat on the UN Security Council afforded for preventing the attendance of Mr Putin.”
Putin, Poroshenko may hold fresh talks next week
The decision came as the Kremlin announced Mr Putin may hold talks with Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko next week.
Kiev and its Western backers have accused Moscow of backing a pro-Russian separatist revolt in eastern Ukraine by providing troops and arms.
Russia has denied the charges and said it has a right to defend the interests of the region’s Russian-speaking majority.
Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said a “Normandy-style meeting” could not be ruled out – a reference to talks in France in June involving Mr Putin, Mr Poroshenko and the leaders of Germany and France.
Mr Poroshenko said he did not expect the talks to be easy.
“I’m used to this. I have a lot of experience of conducting very difficult diplomatic talks. But I’m an optimist,” he told the Interfax Ukraine news agency.
“The key and main question is peace. Russia’s role in the issue of providing peace, as you understand, is difficult to overestimate.”
Poroshenko hopes for progress on gas dispute
A ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and separatists has broadly held despite frequent violations especially around the airport of Donetsk, the biggest city of eastern Ukraine.
The European Union and the United States imposed economic sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, where Moscow has also annexed the Crimea peninsula.
In retaliation, Russia has banned most Western food imports.
On Wednesday, the United Nations said the death toll from the conflict in eastern Ukraine stood at more than 3,660 people.
Mr Poroshenko also said he hoped to make “significant progress” in Milan on resolving Ukraine’s long-running gas pricing dispute with Russia.
Russia shut off gas deliveries to Ukraine in June over what it said were more than $5 billion in unpaid bills.
Ukraine faces a possibility of energy shortages this winter if no deal is reached, risking a replay of the disruptions to Europe’s gas supplies seen in 2006 and 2009.
“We believe that Ukraine’s proposals are absolutely clear, concrete and justified. We are sure that we are significantly closer to solving this issue,” Mr Poroshenko told reporters.
Separately, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and US secretary of state John Kerry are expected to discuss the situation in Ukraine at a meeting in Paris on October 14.
Mr Poroshenko, whose country holds parliamentary elections later this month, has faced some domestic criticism over elements of a peace plan agreed with Russia, especially his offer of autonomy to rebel-held regions of eastern Ukraine.
News agency Interfax reported late on Friday that Mr Poroshenko had sacked one of those critics, Serhiy Taruta, a billionaire businessman, as governor of the Donetsk region.
Mr Poroshenko has appointed in Mr Taruta’s place as governor Oleksander Kikhtenko, a former head of interior ministry forces, Interfax said.