Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong will meet her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, on Friday in the first such high-level, face-to-face talks since 2019.
- China’s Foreign Ministry announced the pair will meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali
- The meeting will happen on Friday at 8pm AEST
- It’s almost three years since the foreign ministers from Australia and China met in person
China’s Foreign Ministry announced Mr Wang will meet Senator Wong on the sidelines of Friday’s G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Bali.
It’s another sign that the relationship between Australia and China is beginning to thaw, and the clearest signal yet that Beijing is willing to resume sustained, high-level dialogue with the new Labor government.
Both ministers are already in Bali ahead of the G20 event, and will meet outside the main meeting around 6pm local time (8pm AEST).
When she arrived in Bali from Singapore earlier today, Senator Wong would not divulge whether a meeting had already been scheduled, but expressed her hopes for an improvement in bilateral relations.
“We believe it would be in China and Australia’s interests for this relationship to be stabilised. And that would require both parties to make a step,” she said.
Australia and China still have several deeply entrenched disputes which the meeting between Senator Wong and Wang Yi is unlikely to resolve.
Australia is pressing China to unwind a series of punishing trade sanctions on Australian goods, while Beijing is demanding Australia take “concrete steps” to repair ties.
But the meeting could still allow both countries to take the first step towards a reset by reviving discussions between senior figures in both countries.
It’s also a clear signal that Beijing has ended its diplomatic freeze on Australia.
Last month, the Defence Minister Richard Marles met his Chinese counterpart in Singapore, but the meeting between Mr Wang and Senator Wong ends a long hiatus in contact between foreign ministers from both nations.
Australia’s former foreign minister, Marise Payne, last spoke to her Chinese counterpart by phone in early 2020, soon after the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in Wuhan.
And the last time the foreign ministers of both countries met face to face was in September 2019.
Countries with ‘influence’ should help end Russian invasion, Senator Wong says
Senator Wong is likely to use tomorrow’s meeting to reiterate her calls for China to use its influence over Russia to end the war in Ukraine and to show “restraint” in its dealings with smaller countries in the region.
In a speech in Singapore on Wednesday, Senator Wong said that major countries with “influence” on Russia should use it to end the war in Ukraine.
“This includes China, as a great power, a permanent member of the Security Council, and with its ‘no limits partnership’ with Russia,” she said.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — and its blockade of food exports from the country’s ports — is expected to overshadow the G20 proceedings tomorrow.
The presence of Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, could cause a rift among those attending.
There was speculation that some nations could walk out of the meeting — when Mr Lavrov is scheduled to speak — to protest against the ongoing war, although Senator Wong has indicated that is unlikely.
“We certainly intend to use the meeting — as opposed to leave the meeting — but use the meeting to highlight what Russia has done,” she said.
It’s understood the US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, will demand other nations pressure Russia to reopen sea lanes to allow food exports from Ukraine, and renew warnings to China not to support Moscow.
Ahead of tomorrow’s G20 meeting, Germany’s Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, has also demanded Russia not be allowed to use the meeting as a platform.
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