Lukashenko backs Xi’s peace plan as he appeals for Chinese investment in Belarus

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China has pledged to beef up trade ties with Belarus despite deepening Western sanctions against Russia’s close ally, whose autocratic ruler Alexander Lukashenko on Wednesday arrived in Beijing for a state visit and said he backed China’s plan for peace in Ukraine.

Lukashenko, who refused to step down after a rigged election three years ago and is a close collaborator in Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine, was given the VIP treatment in China. A 21-gun salute was performed by China’s People’s Liberation Army in Tiananmen Square in his honor.

“The China-Belarus friendship is unbreakably strong,” Xi Jinping told Lukashenko, the first European head of state to be given a state visit since the Chinese leader secured a norm-breaking third term last year. “China and Belarus are the joint guarantors of international justice.” His remarks were reported by Chinese state media Xinhua.

Lukashenko, whose economy has been hit hard by sanctions imposed by the West for his role in assisting Putin’s war, secured fresh promises from Xi for further investments in Belarus.

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“Economic and trade cooperation will be expanded, and the China-Belarus Industrial Park will be fully constructed,” Xi told Lukashenko. According to Belarusian statistics cited by Xinhua, the net profit of the enterprises based at the industrial park totals 34.1 million Belarusian rubles, equivalent to €12.2 million, in 2022, up by 144 percent from the previous year.

During Lukashenko’s visit, the two countries signed bilateral agreements on trade, industry, agriculture, customs, technology, public health, tourism, sports and regional government cooperation.

Lukashenko said he “fully supports” China’s position paper on resolving the Ukraine crisis, unveiled last week.

Xi also offered his first remarks on Ukraine since the announcement of the paper, which has been called into question by the EU and the U.S., though Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he was open to considering some parts of Beijing’s proposals.

“The core of China’s position is to promote peace and facilitate negotiations,” Xi said. “It is crucial to stick to the direction of political settlement, abandon all Cold War mentality, respect the legitimate security concerns of all countries, and build a balanced, effective and sustainable European security architecture.”

He also blamed “certain countries” — a veiled reference to the West — for “politicizing and instrumentalizing the world economy” during the “Ukraine crisis,” calling on them to “genuinely commit to [steps] conducive to a cease-fire and peaceful resolution.”

Xi made no reference to Zelenskyy’s call for a meeting. Russian media has reported that Xi was due to visit Moscow later this year.