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EU's Michel plays down chances of G20 agreeing summit declaration

By Manoj Kumar

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -It is hard to say if G20 leaders gathering in New Delhi this weekend can reach consensus on a declaration, the EU's representative said, as he urged tougher action against Russia over its blockade of Ukrainian grain.

Analysts say deeper and more entrenched divisions over Moscow's invasion risk derailing progress on issues including food security, debt distress and global cooperation on climate change when the world's most powerful nations meet.

"It's difficult to predict if it will be possible to have an agreement on the declaration," European Council President Charles Michel told a press conference in the Indian capital. "We are still negotiating."

He added, "I don't intend to say something that will make the efforts more difficult. We support the efforts made by the Indian presidency."

India, which is chairing the gathering, wants the summit's final communique to also accommodate the views of Russia and China, which have blocked Western nations' efforts to include strong condemnation of Russia's war in Ukraine.

Neither Russian President Vladimir Putin nor Chinese President Xi Jinping are attending the summit. Moscow is sending Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov while Premier Li Qiang will represent Beijing.

Michel said the European Union wanted the G20 to focus on tackling global challenges to food and energy security, saying Russia was blocking Ukraine's exports of grain through the Black Sea, one of the key issues to feature in the weekend's talks.

"The EU will continue to strongly back Ukraine and pile pressure on Russia," he said, adding it was crystal clear that the bloc condemned Russia's aggression.

"By deliberately attacking Ukraine's ports, the Kremlin is depriving people of food they desperately need."

"FOOD MISSILES"

The European Union wants G20 leaders to put pressure on Russia to pull back from Ukraine and rejoin the Black Sea grain deal, arguing that Russia's blockade had led to food insecurity for over 250 million people worldwide.

Russia withdrew from the UN-brokered deal in July, citing a lack of progress on its food and fertiliser exports.

"This meeting is an occasion... to see the cynical approach by Russia, which is (creating) more difficulties for the developing countries," said Michel, saying Russia was shooting "food missiles" against the developing countries.

However, the EU was developing alternative routes to bring out grains from Ukraine to global markets, especially developing countries, he said.

Russia has said it is ready to revive the Black Sea initiative if sanctions on Russian companies dealing in agricultural products and fertilisers were lifted.

Michel did not foresee the summit solving all "major" global problems, he said, but added that the EU wanted the bloc to hasten efforts on sustainable development, climate change and poverty reduction.

(Reporting by Manoj Kumar, Chris Thomas; Writing by Shivam Patel; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and John Stonestreet)