Ukraine war tops agenda as G20 opens

Leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) major economies will open talks on the island of Bali after a final pitch by host Indonesia for the bloc to focus on action to help a global economic recovery despite deep rifts due to the war in Ukraine.

The G20, which includes countries ranging from Brazil to India, Saudi Arabia and Germany, accounts for more than 80 per cent of the world's gross domestic product, 75 per cent of international trade and 60 per cent of its population.

A three-hour bilateral meeting between United States President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping on the eve of the summit, in which the two leaders pledged more frequent communications despite many differences, was a positive sign.

Monday's meeting was the first time the two had met in person since Biden became president and the talks appeared to signal an improvement in relations between the superpowers after a downward spiral in recent months.

With the Ukraine war and a global spike in inflation overshadowing the summit, Indonesia's president made a fresh appeal to the leaders of the world's richest countries to unite at least on economic matters.

"We hope the G20 summit can deliver concrete partnerships that can help the world in its economic recovery," President Joko Widodo said after a bilateral meeting with Biden.

The Indonesian leader, widely known as Jokowi, also asked the European Commission and the G7 bloc to lend "support and flexibility" so the summit can produce concrete results, he said in a statement.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine triggered calls by some Western leaders for a boycott of the summit and for the withdrawal of Russian President Vladimir Putin's invitation.

Indonesia resisted, refusing to withdraw Putin's invitation and rejecting what Indonesian sources say has been pressure from G7 nations to condemn Russia at the summit.

Russia has said Putin was too busy to attend the summit with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov taking his place.

Lavrov on Monday dismissed a news agency report that he had been taken to hospital in Bali with a heart condition.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is due to address the summit via video link on Tuesday.

A joint G20 communique, which would need to be agreed by all parties, appears unlikely, with Indonesia instead pushing for a leaders' declaration, diplomatic sources say.

"The war and the geopolitical tensions that have increased mean the diverse interest among G20 members have grown wider," said Jose Rizal, executive director of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Tuesday Putin's regime would hear the chorus of global opposition to its actions.

Sunak will call on G20 for co-ordinated action to address economic instability and the rising cost of living in the wake of Russia's invasion, his government said.

Biden will be "unapologetic" in his defence of Ukraine, US officials have said.

Xi and Putin have grown increasingly close in recent years and reaffirmed their partnership just days before Russia invaded Ukraine but China has been careful not to provide any direct material support that could trigger Western sanctions against it.

Biden and Xi "underscored their opposition to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine" during their meeting, according to a White House statement.

A statement from the Chinese foreign minister said Xi told Biden nuclear weapons cannot be used and nuclear wars cannot be fought.

The West has accused Russia of making irresponsible statements on the possible use of nuclear weapons since its February invasion of Ukraine.

Russia has in turn accused the West of "provocative" nuclear rhetoric.