Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday, said he is ready to call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky when the time comes, according to a French diplomat who attended a meeting between Xi Jinping, Emmanuel Macron and Ursula von der Leyen.
In closely watched talks, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron met with Xi in Beijing.
Macron said the West must engage China to help end the crisis and prevent “spiraling” tensions that could split global powers into warring blocs.
The French head of state meanwhile “pressed Xi Jinping not to deliver anything to Russia that would be used for its war against Ukraine”.
He stated this in the face of Western fears that Beijing could be mulling arms shipments to support Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Xi, who has sought to position China as a potential mediator in the conflict but is perceived by the West as favouring Russia, responded by saying he hoped Moscow and Kyiv could hold peace negotiations as soon as possible.
“It was interesting to hear that President Xi reiterated his willingness to speak” to Zelenskiy, Von der Leyen said, calling his words “positive”. Xi said a conversation could happen when the “conditions and time are right”, she added.
Zelenskiy has repeatedly asked Xi to meet him, including after the Chinese leader visited Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last month. A French diplomatic source told Reuters that Xi was “ready” to call Zelenskiy.
“The Russian aggression in Ukraine has dealt a blow to (international) stability,” Macron told Xi, standing alongside the Chinese president outside the Great Hall of the People at the start of their bilateral meeting.
“I know I can count on you to bring Russia back to its senses and everyone back to the negotiating table.”
China has proposed a 12-point peace plan for the Ukraine crisis that calls on both sides to agree to a gradual de-escalation leading to a comprehensive ceasefire.
The plan was largely dismissed by the West due to China’s refusal to condemn Russia, and the United States and NATO then said China was considering sending arms to Russia, which Beijing has denied.
“Arming the aggressor is a clear violation of international law,” von der Leyen said. “This would indeed significantly harm the relationship between the EU and China.”
The French diplomatic source said Macron had urged Xi not to provide weapons to Russia, and that Xi had replied that it was not his war.
In comments after the meeting, Xi called for Ukraine and Russia to resume peace talks and find a political solution to the conflict. More than a year into a conflict that has claimed thousands of lives, there is little sign either side is keen to negotiate.”
France said the discussions between the leaders were “frank and constructive,” while China described them as “friendly” and “in-depth”.
Macron also asked Xi to press Russia to comply with international rules on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Putin has said he will station tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine’s neighbour Belarus, a move seen as a dangerous escalation in the bloody year-long conflict.
Xi said all countries should respect commitments on not using nuclear weapons and “nuclear war shouldn’t be waged”, without mentioning Russia. He called on the international community to “refrain from any action that would lead to further deterioration of the crisis or even to it getting out of control”.