High anxiety over war in Ukraine sets in during EU-LatAm summit which was supposed to be a love-in

BRUSSELS (AP) — Great anxiety set in on the day of the conclusion of a summit between the European Union and Latin American leaders that was supposed to be a love affair but turned into a diplomatic fracas over war in Ukraine.

Ambassadors worked much of the night and into Tuesday morning to find the blandest text condemning Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, with talks suspended over reservations from some Central and South American countries. such as Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

“It would be a shame if we weren’t able to say that there is Russian aggression in Ukraine. It is a fact. And I’m not here to rewrite history,” exasperated Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said.

The long-awaited summit, eight years after the previous one, descended into a stalemate over who would blink first on an issue that a large majority of the 60 nations present had already agreed to in several votes at the United Nations and in other international institutions.

While the 27 EU countries wanted the summit to focus on new economic initiatives and closer cooperation to avoid the rise of Chinese influence in the region, several leaders of the Community of 33 Latin American countries and the Caribbean voiced century-old grumblings about colonialism and table slavery.

“Most of Europe has been, and still is, overwhelmingly the unbalanced beneficiary of a relationship in which our Latin America and our Caribbean have been and are unequally linked,” said Prime Minister de Saint- Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, who holds the CELAC Presidency.

Diplomatic defense of Ukraine and condemnation of Moscow are daily staples for EU countries, but many Latin and Central American governments have taken a more neutral view of a conflict in Europe which, for them, is only one among many others ravaging the world.

As the EU pushes for strong words on the war, Gonsalves said “this summit should not become another useless battleground for rhetoric on this issue, which has been and continues to be addressed in many other more relevant forums”.

The upshot has been that long-stalled trade deals — like a huge EU-Mercosur deal — are unlikely to be any closer to resolution when leaders wrap up their summit on Tuesday afternoon.

If there was anything in evidence it was the heightened confidence in Central and South America, boosted by a huge injection of funds from China and the realization that their critical raw materials will become increasingly increasingly vital as the EU seeks to end overreliance on Beijing’s scarce mineral resources. resources.

Their last such meeting was in 2015, and since then the COVID-19 pandemic and Brazil’s three-year departure from the CELAC group of 33 nations had made the Atlantic Ocean separating the two sides seem wider.

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