Ukraine War: Zelenskyy open to meeting Xi Jinping after China proposes peace plan

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he wants to meet with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to discuss Beijing’s calls for a cease-fire and peace talks between Russia and Ukraine on Friday. 

China claims to have a neutral stance in the war that began one year ago, but has also refused to criticise Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, or even refer to it as an invasion. It has accused Ukraine’s western allies of provoking the conflict and “fanning the flames” by providing Ukraine with defensive arms.

“I believe that the fact that China started talking about Ukraine is not bad,” Zelenskyy said. “But the question is what follows the words. The question is in the steps and where they will lead to.”

“As far as I know, China has historically respected territorial integrity, and so it should do everything so that the Russian Federation leaves our territory, as it’s in this that the gravity of sovereignty and territorial integrity lies.”

In a 12-point document released Friday, Beijing’s foreign ministry outlined its proposals to halt the fighting in Ukraine. It called for peace talks and for both sides to respect national sovereignty. The statement did not however call for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.

China’s public stance happened two days after senior Beijing diplomat Wang Yi visited Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. 

Wang was welcomed warmly by Putin, who said their countries have a common strategic interest in standing together on the world stage.

“Cooperation in the international arena between the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China, as we have repeatedly said, is very important for stabilising the international situation,” Putin noted.

Western Reaction

Although welcomed by Zelenskyy, Beijing’s proposal was met with a more tepid reaction from Kyiv’s western allies. 

NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the plan did not have “much credibility” as China had “not been able to condemn the illegal invasion of Ukraine”.

When asked for comment, US President Joe Biden responded to reporters saying that if Putin was “applauding it [Beijing’s proposal], how could it be any good?”

The EU Commission labelled China’s stance as “selective” and misguided in that it blurred the roles of the aggressor and the victim.

To coincide with the one-year anniversary of the war, the EU also hit Moscow with a fresh package of sanctions, targeting €11 billion worth of EU exports and blacklisting propagandists to the Kremlin.