Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday he plans to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping after Beijing called for urgent peace talks to end the war in Ukraine.
Mr Zelensky did not say when such a meeting might take place but said he believed the talks would be crucial for global security.
‘I plan to meet Xi Jinping and believe this will be beneficial for our countries and for security in the world,’ he told a news conference in Kyiv on the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Zelensky also reiterated that he would not hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The news comes after China called for an urgent ceasefire and for immediate peace talks to end the war between Ukraine and Russia earlier on Friday.
Mr Zelensky also reiterated that he would not hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, at a press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine today
Mr Zelensky said he believed Russia-allied China did not offer a concrete plan but some ‘thoughts’. Pictured: Xi Jinping and Putin in Beijing, China, February 4, 2022
China said it wants to prevent the crisis from getting further out of control, noting that dialogue and negotiation are the only viable ways to resolve the conflict, according to a position paper released on Friday.
In a 12-point peace plan, Beijing most notably called for an end to Western sanctions, negotiations between the countries which would likely see Ukraine ceding territory, a NATO pull-back from its eastern borders, and reconstruction efforts that would likely benefit Chinese contractors.
Mr Zelensky said he welcomed some elements of the Chinese proposal for a ceasefire, but said only the country where a war is being fought should be the initiator of a peace plan.
‘It’s an important signal that they are preparing to take part in this theme,’ he said during a news conference in Kyiv, referring to China’s bid to broker peace.
‘So far, I see this as a signal – I don’t know what will happen later.’
Mr Zelensky, who said he believed Russia-allied China did not offer a concrete plan but some ‘thoughts’, also warned Beijing against providing Moscow with arms.
‘I very much want to believe that China will not deliver weapons to Russia, and for me this is very important,’ he said, speaking on the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion.
‘This is point number one.’
The Ukrainian leader also said that any plan that did not include a full Russian troop withdrawal would be unacceptable to Kyiv and that peace could not be agreed without the return of all its territory.
China said it wants to prevent the crisis from getting further out of control. Pictured: Vladimir Putin greets China’s top diplomat Wang Yi in Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday
Ukrainian service members in a tank, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, near the town of Lyman, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Thursday
A Ukrainian serviceman prepares a Javelin missile system for shooting during an exercise, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, near the town of Lyman, Donetsk region on Thursday
WHAT IS CHINA’S 12-POINT CEASE-FIRE PROPOSAL?
1. Respecting the sovereignty of all countries.
Universally recognized international law, including the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, must be strictly observed. The sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries must be effectively upheld. All countries, big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, are equal members of the international community. All parties should jointly uphold the basic norms governing international relations and defend international fairness and justice. Equal and uniform application of international law should be promoted, while double standards must be rejected.
2. Abandoning the Cold War mentality.
The security of a country should not be pursued at the expense of others. The security of a region should not be achieved by strengthening or expanding military blocs. The legitimate security interests and concerns of all countries must be taken seriously and addressed properly. There is no simple solution to a complex issue. All parties should, following the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security and bearing in mind the long-term peace and stability of the world, help forge a balanced, effective and sustainable European security architecture. All parties should oppose the pursuit of one’s own security at the cost of others’ security, prevent bloc confrontation, and work together for peace and stability on the Eurasian Continent.
3. Ceasing hostilities.
Conflict and war benefit no one. All parties must stay rational and exercise restraint, avoid fanning the flames and aggravating tensions, and prevent the crisis from deteriorating further or even spiraling out of control. All parties should support Russia and Ukraine in working in the same direction and resuming direct dialogue as quickly as possible, so as to gradually deescalate the situation and ultimately reach a comprehensive ceasefire.
4. Resuming peace talks.
Dialogue and negotiation are the only viable solution to the Ukraine crisis. All efforts conducive to the peaceful settlement of the crisis must be encouraged and supported. The international community should stay committed to the right approach of promoting talks for peace, help parties to the conflict open the door to a political settlement as soon as possible, and create conditions and platforms for the resumption of negotiation. China will continue to play a constructive role in this regard.
5. Resolving the humanitarian crisis.
All measures conducive to easing the humanitarian crisis must be encouraged and supported. Humanitarian operations should follow the principles of neutrality and impartiality, and humanitarian issues should not be politicized. The safety of civilians must be effectively protected, and humanitarian corridors should be set up for the evacuation of civilians from conflict zones. Efforts are needed to increase humanitarian assistance to relevant areas, improve humanitarian conditions, and provide rapid, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access, with a view to preventing a humanitarian crisis on a larger scale. The UN should be supported in playing a coordinating role in channeling humanitarian aid to conflict zones.
6. Protecting civilians and prisoners of war (POWs).
Parties to the conflict should strictly abide by international humanitarian law, avoid attacking civilians or civilian facilities, protect women, children and other victims of the conflict, and respect the basic rights of POWs. China supports the exchange of POWs between Russia and Ukraine, and calls on all parties to create more favorable conditions for this purpose.
7. Keeping nuclear power plants safe.
China opposes armed attacks against nuclear power plants or other peaceful nuclear facilities, and calls on all parties to comply with international law including the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS) and resolutely avoid man-made nuclear accidents. China supports the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in playing a constructive role in promoting the safety and security of peaceful nuclear facilities.
8. Reducing strategic risks.
Nuclear weapons must not be used and nuclear wars must not be fought. The threat or use of nuclear weapons should be opposed. Nuclear proliferation must be prevented and nuclear crisis avoided. China opposes the research, development and use of chemical and biological weapons by any country under any circumstances.
9. Facilitating grain exports.
All parties need to implement the Black Sea Grain Initiative signed by Russia, Türkiye, Ukraine and the UN fully and effectively in a balanced manner, and support the UN in playing an important role in this regard. The cooperation initiative on global food security proposed by China provides a feasible solution to the global food crisis.
10. Stopping unilateral sanctions.
Unilateral sanctions and maximum pressure cannot solve the issue; they only create new problems. China opposes unilateral sanctions unauthorized by the UN Security Council. Relevant countries should stop abusing unilateral sanctions and ‘long-arm jurisdiction’ against other countries, so as to do their share in deescalating the Ukraine crisis and create conditions for developing countries to grow their economies and better the lives of their people.
11. Keeping industrial and supply chains stable.
All parties should earnestly maintain the existing world economic system and oppose using the world economy as a tool or weapon for political purposes. Joint efforts are needed to mitigate the spillovers of the crisis and prevent it from disrupting international cooperation in energy, finance, food trade and transportation and undermining the global economic recovery.
12. Promoting post-conflict reconstruction.
The international community needs to take measures to support post-conflict reconstruction in conflict zones. China stands ready to provide assistance and play a constructive role in this endeavor.
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China
Russia’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the proposal from its Chinese allies, and said it remains open to political and diplomatic efforts. The Russian ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova praised the plan for ‘implying halting the flow of Western weapons’ and ‘acknowledging the territorial realities that have emerged.’
China’s proposal was largely met with scepticism in the West and in Kyiv, with the head of NATO arguing that Beijing ‘doesn’t have much credibility’.
Western leaders questioned what the real motive behind China’s 12-point peace plan is – given that Beijing has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Russia and parroted the Kremlin’s talking points about NATO expansionism.
The President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was ‘doubtful’ about China’s willingness to mediate in the conflict, while NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Beijing lacks credibility. Indeed, Stoltenberg said there were signs China is planning to supply Moscow with weapons and ammunition.
‘China doesn’t have much credibility because they have not been able to condemn the illegal invasion of Ukraine,’ Stoltenberg told reporters in Tallinn, adding Beijing had signed an agreement with Putin only days before the invasion.
Stoltenberg also said that while there was no evidence so far that China has supplied weapons to Russia, there were signs that it might. US intelligence has also raised the same concerns that China is planning to supply Moscow with weapons and ammunition – something that Beijing denies.
‘We have not seen actual delivery of lethal aid, but what we have seen are signs and indications that China may be planning and considering the supply of military aid to Russia,’ Stoltenberg said. ‘China should not do that.’
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said China had not shared a peace plan – just a series of principles.
‘You have to see them against a specific backdrop, and that is the backdrop that China has already taken sides by signing, for example, an unlimited friendship [treaty] right before the invasion,’ she noted.
‘So we will look at the principles, of course, but we will look at them against the backdrop that China has taken sides,’ she added.
The proposal is ‘an attempt for public relations on the part of China,’ said Li Mingjiang, a professor and international security expert at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. ‘I’m not convinced that this policy is going to improve their credibility in being an honest broker.’
Speaking after China issued the paper, but without referring to it, Zhanna Leshchynska, charge d’affaires at the Ukrainian embassy in Beijing, said her country doesn’t want peace at any price.
‘We will not agree to anything that keeps Ukrainian territories occupied and puts our people at the aggressor’s mercy,’ Leshchynska told a gathering at the EU mission to China marking the anniversary of the invasion.
Leonid Slutsky, a senior Russian lawmaker, said the plan contains moves that would mark ‘an end of the hegemony of the collective West.’
Ukraine’s allies expressed skepticism. U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on CNN that his first reaction to the proposal was that ‘it could stop at point one, which is: Respect the sovereignty of all nations.’
He added: ‘This war could end tomorrow if Russia stopped attacking Ukraine and withdrew its forces…. This was a war of choice.’
German government spokesman Wolfgang Buchner said the Chinese proposal contained several important points, but was missing a key one: ‘first and foremost the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.’
China abstained Thursday when the U.N. General Assembly approved a nonbinding resolution that calls for Russia to end hostilities in Ukraine and withdraw its forces.
The 12-point paper also urges measures to prevent attacks on civilians and civilian facilities, keep nuclear facilities safe, establish humanitarian corridors for civilians and ensure the export of grain. It called for an end to the ‘Cold War mentality’ – China’s standard term for what it regards as U.S. hegemony, and maintenance of alliances such as NATO.
‘Dialogue and negotiation are the only viable solution to the Ukraine crisis.’ the proposal said. It offered no details on what form talks should take but said ‘China will continue to play a constructive role in this regard.’
While neither Kyiv nor Moscow might pay much heed to the Chinese proposal, Beijing needed to clarify its stance, said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Beijing’s Renmin University.
‘China feels it necessary to repeat its self-perceived neutrality at this juncture, to save some international inference by not only criticizing NATO but also distinguishing itself from Russia’s behavior,’ Shi said.
The proposal comes as U.S.-China relations have hit a historic low over Taiwan, disputes over trade and technology, human rights, and China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea.
The U.S. recently said China may be preparing to provide Russia with military aid, an allegation that Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin called ‘nothing more than slander and smears.’
On Friday he referred to a ‘massive disinformation in this respect against China.’
Wang was responding to a report in the German magazine Der Spiegel that Russia’s military was negotiating with a small Chinese drone manufacturer for the ‘components and know-how’ to allow the country to manufacture about 100 suicide drones a month.
China has claimed to be neutral in the conflict, but it has a ‘no-limits’ relationship with Russia and has refused to criticize its invasion of Ukraine, while accusing the West of provoking the conflict and ‘fanning the flames’ by providing Kyiv with defensive arms.
Russia and China have increasingly aligned their foreign policies to oppose the US-led liberal international order.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi reaffirmed the strength of those ties when he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a visit to Moscow this week.
China has also been accused by the US of possibly preparing to provide Russia with military aid, something Beijing says lacks evidence.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said earlier on Thursday that the US would reserve judgement but that China’s allegiance with Russia meant it was not a neutral mediator.
‘We would like to see nothing more than a just and durable peace… but we are sceptical that reports of a proposal like this will be a constructive path forward,’ he said.
Price added that the US hopes ‘all countries that have a relationship with Russia unlike the one that we have will use that leverage, will use that influence to push Russia meaningfully and usefully to end this brutal war of aggression.
‘(China) is in a position to do that in ways that we just aren’t.’
The peace proposal mainly elaborated on long-held Chinese positions, including referring to the need that all countries’ ‘sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity be effectively guaranteed’.
It also called an end to the ‘Cold War mentality’ – its standard term for what it regards as US hegemony and interference in other countries.
‘A country’s security cannot be at the expense of other countries´ security, and regional security cannot be guaranteed by strengthening or even expanding military blocs,’ the proposal said. ‘
The legitimate security interests and concerns of all countries should be taken seriously and properly addressed.’