Chinese President Xi speaks to Ukrainian counterpart


Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping in his first phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday offered to mediate to bring about a ceasefire and political settlement to end the Russia-Ukraine conflict, saying Kyiv must “seize the opportunity” as he warned that there are no winners in a nuclear war.

Xi, who toyed with the idea of mediating to end the over-year-long conflict after his last month’s highly publicised visit to Moscow during which he referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as “dear friend”, told Zelenskyy that “dialogue and negotiation are the only viable way forward” and offered to send a special envoy to negotiate a ceasefire.

“There is no winner in a nuclear war. On the nuclear issue, all relevant parties must stay calm and exercise restraint, truly act in the interests of their own future and that of humanity, and jointly manage the crisis,” he said, apparently cautioning against a prolonged conflict.

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“With rational thinking and voices now on the rise, it is important to seize the opportunity and build up favourable conditions for the political settlement of the crisis,” Xi said.

This is the first contact between Xi and Zelenskyy since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year.

Xi is trying to enlarge China’s diplomatic outreach after Beijing successfully negotiated a peace deal between arch-rivals in the Middle East – Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Avoiding any direct reference to Russia, Xi told Zelenskyy that “it is hoped that all parties would seriously reflect on the Ukraine crisis and jointly explore ways to bring lasting peace and security to Europe through dialogue”.

“China will continue to facilitate talks for peace and make its efforts for an early ceasefire and restoration of peace. China will send the Special Representative of the Chinese Government on Eurasian Affairs to Ukraine and other countries to have in-depth communication with all parties on the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis,” an official statement here quoted Xi as saying.

The official statement made no mention of Russia. China has not condemned Russia after it started the war against Ukraine over disputed territories but did not recognise Moscow’s claims but firmed up political, trade and military ties.

In his careful reaction, Zelenskyy tweeted saying that he “had a long and meaningful phone call with President Xi Jinping. I believe that this call, as well as the appointment of Ukraine’s ambassador to China, will give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations”.

Putin has already welcomed China’s mediation.

Observers say that Zelenskyy, who is closely coordinating with the US and EU and received abundant support in Ukraine’s fight against Russia, has little room to accept a settlement without Russia forgoing its claims over the areas claimed by both countries.

Ahead of Xi’s visit to Russia, China released a 12-point paper calling for a ceasefire followed by peace talks to end the Ukraine war. It, however, struck a nuanced stand of respecting Ukraine’s sovereignty and legitimate security concerns of Moscow and expressed its firm opposition to the use of nuclear weapons.

Significant points of China’s stand in its position paper were a call for ceasing hostilities and global support for the resumption of direct peace talks between Russia and Ukraine to end the war, respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and Moscow’s legitimate security concerns and Beijing’s opposition to threat or use of nuclear and biological weapons.

In his meeting with Xi, Putin said Chinese proposals could be used as the basis of a peace settlement in Ukraine, but that the Western countries and Kyiv were not yet ready.

In a joint statement, both Xi and Putin cautioned against any steps that might push the Ukraine conflict into an “uncontrollable phase,” adding that there could be no winners in a nuclear war.

Xi commended Zelenskyy for stating, on multiple occasions, the importance he attaches to developing the bilateral relationship and advancing cooperation with China.

“Mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity is the political foundation of China-Ukraine relations. The two sides need to look to the future, view and handle the bilateral relations from a long-term perspective, carry forward the tradition of mutual respect and sincerity, and take the China-Ukraine strategic partnership forward,” he said.

“China’s readiness to develop relations with Ukraine is consistent and clear-cut. No matter how the international situation evolves, China will work with Ukraine to advance mutually beneficial cooperation,” Xi said.

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( With inputs from )

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