China’s call for an urgent ceasefire and peace talks to end the war between Ukraine and Russia was today met with scepticism in Kyiv and the West, with the head of NATO arguing that Beijing ‘doesn’t have much credibility’.
Western leaders have 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.
China has claimed it wants to prevent the crisis from getting 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.
But its ‘peace’ proposal has been met with scepticism in the West and Ukraine. In its 12-point plan, Beijing called for an end to Western sanctions, negotiations which would likely see Ukraine ceding territory, a NATO pull-back from its eastern borders and reconstruction efforts that would likely benefit Chinese contractors.
The President of Germany 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’s call for an urgent ceasefire and peace talks to end the war between Ukraine and Russia was today met with scepticism in Kyiv and the West, with the head of NATO arguing that Beijing ‘doesn’t have much credibility’. Pictured: Russian President Vladimir Putin smiles as he greets China’s top diplomat Wang Yi in Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday
Ukrainian service members ride a tank, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, near the town of Lyman, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on February 23
Ukrainian service members ride a tank, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, near the town of Lyman, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on February 23
‘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.
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
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.
Speaking after the paper’s release, a representative from the Ukrainian embassy in China said: ‘If it is neutral, then China should talk to both sides… And now, we see the Chinese side mostly talks to Russia but not with Ukraine.’
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier questioned China’s willingness to mediate in the conflict and said: ‘Every constructive suggestion that brings us closer on the path to a just peace is highly welcome.
‘Whether global power China wants to play such a constructive role is still doubtful.’
If China did want to play a constructive role it should ‘not just speak with Moscow, but also with Kyiv’, Steinmeier said.
China should also ‘join the overwhelming majority of states and work for peace under the umbrella of the United Nations’, Steinmeier added.
Beijing on Thursday abstained in a nonbinding UN vote to demand Russia immediately and unconditionally withdraw its troops from Ukraine.
Jorge Toledo, the European Union’s ambassador to China, said Beijing had ‘a special responsibility’ to uphold the goals and values of the United Nations, especially when it came to war and peace.
‘Whether this is compatible with neutrality, I’m not sure – it depends on what neutrality means,’ he added.
China’s plan also urged for measures to ensure the safety of nuclear facilities, the establishment of humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians, and steps to ensure the export of grain after disruptions caused global food prices to spike.
‘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 spiralling out of control,’ China’s statement said.
Ukraine has said that victory in the conflict would mean pushing all Russian forces out of its territory, including areas occupied by Russia since 2014. NATO, meanwhile, will not pull its forces from its eastern borders so long as Russia poses a threat.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has set out aims for the second year of the invasion and after a series of speeches in the run-up to the anniversary, he announced plans to deploy the new Sarmat multi-warhead intercontinental ballistic missiles.
‘Nuclear weapons must not be used and nuclear war cannot be fought,’ the statement said. ‘We oppose development [and] use of biological and chemical weapons by any country under any circumstances.’
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.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday he had not seen any Chinese peace plan and wanted to meet with Beijing over the proposal before assessing it.
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.’
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.
It is one of 16 countries that either voted against or abstained on almost all of five previous resolutions on Ukraine.
The resolution, drafted by Ukraine in consultation with its allies, passed 141-7 with 32 abstentions, sending a strong message on the eve of the first anniversary of the invasion that appears to leave Russia more isolated than ever.
While China has not been openly critical of Moscow, it has said that the present conflict is ‘not something it wishes to see,’ and has repeatedly said any use of nuclear weapons would be completely unacceptable, in an implied repudiation of Putin´s statement that Russia would use ‘all available means’ to protect its territory.
‘There are no winners in conflict wars,’ the proposal said.
‘All parties should maintain rationality and restraint … support Russia and Ukraine to meet each other, resume direct dialogue as soon as possible, gradually promote the de-escalation and relaxation of the situation, and finally reach a comprehensive ceasefire,’ it said.
Putin met with China’s top diplomat in Moscow on Wednesday and declared ‘other countries will not influence our relations’ as he doubles down on forging ties with Beijing amid the West’s condemnation of his war in Ukraine.
In a clear sign of his desire to cozy up to the eastern superpower, Putin warmly greeted Wang Yi at the Kremlin on Wednesday before the pair sat down to talk business face-to-face, mere feet from one another.
Olha Kosianchuk, 64, cries during a memorial service to mark the one-year anniversary of the start of the Russia Ukraine war, in Bucha, Ukraine, on Friday
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, hands over the flag of a military unit as an officer kneels during a commemorative event on the occasion of the Russia Ukraine war one year anniversary in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen attends wreath-laying ceremony at the War of Independence Victory Column during Independence Day celebrations in Tallinn, Estonia February 24
Military servicemen carry the coffin of 42 year-old soldier Andrii Bontsiun during a funeral ceremony outside the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul Church in Lviv, western Ukraine, on Thursday
It was a stark contrast to Putin’s treatment of other world leaders which has seen the likes of French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban forced to sit at the opposite end of the room, separated by a large table.
Even some of the Kremlin’s top insiders, including loyal foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, hapless defense minister Sergei Shoigu and Ukraine war architect Valery Gerasimov are subjected to extreme social distancing – yet Wang was allowed direct contact with the Russian despot.
Putin told Wang, the Chinese Communist Party’s most senior foreign policy official, that he looked forward to President Xi Jinping visiting him in Moscow.
The Russian President said ties between Russia and Beijing are important to ‘stabilize the international situation’ amid crippling Western sanctions against Moscow in response to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine nearly a year ago.
The pair insisted that relations between Russia and China could not be influenced by other countries in a two-fingered salute to the West and Ukrainians.
Wang meanwhile told Putin told that Beijing will play a constructive role in reaching a political settlement of the crisis in Ukraine, the TASS news agency reported.
On Friday, to mark the first anniversary of the war, Zelensky hailed Ukraine and its people for fighting back against Russia and vowed victory.
‘We endured. We were not defeated. And we will do everything to gain victory this year!’ Zelensky said in a statement released on social media.
Early in the morning a year ago, Russian troops invaded Ukraine, leading to the worst conflict in Europe since World War II.
The war has devastated swathes of Ukraine, displaced millions, turned Russia into a pariah in the West and, according to Western sources, has caused more than 150,000 casualties on each side.
Sitting at a desk, dressed in a blue sweatshirt with Ukraine’s trident emblem, Zelensky paid homage to cities that have become bywords for alleged Russian war crimes like Bucha, Irpin and Mariupol as ‘capitals of invincibility’.
Ukraine’s resistance has surprised Russia, which was expecting a quick victory, as well as observers all around the world.
Zelensky said the first months of the war ‘changed the world’s perception of Ukraine. It did not fall in three days. It stopped the second army of the world!’
The Ukrainian leader managed to rally Western financial and military support, which helped Kyiv push back Russian troops.
‘Ukraine has inspired the world. Ukraine has united the world,’ in a ‘furious year of invincibility,’ he said. ‘We will never rest until the Russian murderers face deserved punishment,’ he also said.
Ukraine’s defence minister Oleksiy Reznikov said Friday his forces were making plans to push Russian troops out of the country.
‘A year ago, it was difficult for us to get serious weapons. Today, civilised countries see that you are the shield of Europe in the east,’ Reznikov told the armed forces.
‘There will be a counteroffensive. We are working hard to prepare and secure it.’