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Trump, Putin, other G20 leaders seek unity in virus fight during online summit

President Donald Trump meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, July 7, 2017. (Kremlin/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will be among the leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) major economies expected to participate in an online summit hosted by Saudi Arabia.

The event, scheduled for March 26, comes as the world’s economies struggle to contain the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The emergency videoconference will be chaired by Saudi King Salman, who is embroiled in a price war with Russia on energy markets after the two sides failed to reach agreement on production cuts at a recent OPEC+ meeting in Vienna.

“As the world confronts the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges to health-care systems and the global economy, we convene this extraordinary G20 summit to unite efforts toward a global response,” the Saudi king said. Riyadh holds the rotating G20 presidency.

The meeting is expected to begin at 3 p.m. Saudi time.

It comes as the Moody’s financial ratings agency estimated that the G20 nations’ overall gross domestic product (GDP) would contract by 0.5 percent this year. The U.S. economy is seen shrinking by 2 percent, while the Eurozone nations are to experience a 2.2 percent retraction, according to Moody’s.

Oil prices had been hit by declining demand even before the coronavirus crisis hammered consumer spending further. A Saudi-Russia dispute has additionally pressured prices.

Saudi Arabia faces pressure from the United States to back off its decision to raise production and offer the biggest price cuts in two decades — a move made in retaliation for Moscow’s refusal to agree to production cuts.

On March 25, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to “rise to the occasion” and “reassure global energy and financial markets.”

Critics have accused the G20 of being too slow to respond to the coronavirus crisis. According to Johns Hopkins University, there have been more than 470,000 cases of coronavirus infections globally, with over 21,000 deaths.

Leaders of the United Nations, the World Bank, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) will also participate in the videoconference.