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Chinese and Ukrainian Leaders Discuss Ukraine-Russia Conflict in First Conversation

China's President Xi Jinping held a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday, April 26th, their first conversation since the beginning of the Ukrainian-Russian war, which began in February 2022.

During the hour-long call, the two leaders had a "quite rational conversation," which could open new opportunities to develop Ukrainian-Chinese relations and partnership, as China was "Ukraine's number one trading partner" before starting the war, according to a speech by Zelensky.

Besides discussing bilateral relations, Zelensky presented the content of his country's Peace Formula, stressing that much of the call focused on possible cooperation between Ukraine and China to establish a "just and sustainable peace for Ukraine."

He also affirmed to President Xi that Ukraine has the right to self-defense after informing him of the developments in the military situation and combat zone, stressing the necessity of building sustainable peace in accordance with the principles of international law and respecting the United Nations Charter.

To end the military war and establish peace, Zelensky called for preventing any country from supporting Russia in the war by providing military-technical cooperation, including the supply of weapons.

"Russia converts any support—even partial—into the continuation of its aggression, into its further rejection of peace. The less support Russia receives, the sooner the war will end, and serenity will return to international relations," Zelenskyy emphasized.

As for China, Xi Jinping considered that the relations with Kyiv have grown over 31 years and have reached the level of strategic partnership, praising Zelensky's emphasis on the importance of developing bilateral relations between the two countries on several occasions.

Moreover, Xi Jinping agreed that mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity is the political foundation of Chinese-Ukrainian relations, especially after Zelensky referenced Ukraine's consistent position on adhering to the "One China" policy, which considers Taiwan an integral part of China's territorial integrity, and that the People's Republic of China is the only legitimate government representing the whole of China.

Therefore, China's desire to develop relations with Ukraine is clear and stable, regardless of how the international situation evolves, per the statement of China's Foreign Affairs Ministry on the Xi-Zelensky call.

“As a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a major responsible country, China would not sit idly by, nor would it add fuel to the fire, still less exploit the situation for self-gains. Everything China does is aboveboard. Dialogue and negotiation are the only viable way forward.”

Regarding the conflict with Russia, China reiterated its commitment to peace. Its stance on the "Ukrainian crisis" is to facilitate talks for peace.

In this context, President Xi called on all parties to exercise restraint and manage the crisis jointly, reminding them there are no winners in a nuclear war. He also stated that rational thinking and voices have begun to prevail. Thus, it is crucial to seize the opportunity and create favorable conditions for a political settlement of the crisis.

Therefore, Xi Jinping promised his country would continue facilitating peace talks and "make its efforts for an early ceasefire and restoration of peace." For this, Beijing 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."

The Ukrainian President also thanked China for providing humanitarian assistance to his country and welcomed China’s commitment to restoring peace and seeking a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Indeed, Zelensky appointed Pavlo Borysovych Ryabikin as "Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the People's Republic of China" on the same day of the phone call.

The decision came after the vacancy of this position in February 2021, following the death of the former Ukrainian ambassador Serhii Kamyshev.

On the other hand, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Russia has noted Chinese efforts to initiate a negotiating process.

"We see a general similarity between our principled approaches and the provisions of the policy document published by the Chinese Foreign Ministry on February 24th, 2023."

However, the problem lies in the "Kyiv regime" that openly rejects political and diplomatic solutions to the crisis. Zakharova referenced how Zelensky signed a law banning any talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in addition to Ukraine's sudden rejection of the nearly finished peace treaties signed by the two factions in response to Kyiv's request in the spring of 2022.

She also accused Ukraine of “monstrous hypocrisy that has been imported from the West” because Ukraine officially banned communist ideology and the communist party, and it started conducting a "de-communization process" that is still ongoing.

In addition, Alexander Merezhko, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada's Committee on Foreign Affairs and Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation, recently stated that the international community's acceptance of Taiwan as part of China "was a communist misconception."

“So, these Washington-controlled puppets can hardly adequately respond to any calls for peace,” Zakharova added.

In the United States, the White House welcomed the phone call between the Presidents of China and Ukraine but said it was too soon to tell whether it would lead to a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby explained, "If there's going to be a negotiated peace, it's got to be when President Zelenskiy is ready for it." Kirby added that the United States would welcome "any effort to arrive at a just peace as long as that peace could be ... sustainable, and could be credible."

He described the call as a “good thing,” adding that it is unclear whether it would lead to a significant move towards peace or a plan or proposal.

Similarly, The Financial Times reported that the European leaders praised the call. “It is an important, long overdue first step by China in exercising its responsibilities as a member of the UN Security Council,” said Eric Mamer, spokesman for Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission.

“China's leadership needs to use its influence to bring Russia to end its war of aggression, restore Ukraine's territorial integrity and respect its sovereignty as a basis for a just peace,” Mamer stated.

Regarding the European stance on the call, French President Emmanuel Macron met with President Xi during a three-day visit to China from April 5th to 7th. Both sides confirmed their commitment to promoting peace in Ukraine, enhancing high-level talks, and working together on global challenges.

It is worth noting that Macron's visit to China was accompanied by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. In an opinion piece published on Al Jazeera, Ayoub Al Rimi argues that the European Union's decision to send the President of the European Commission signifies that the French President carries a message from the whole of Europe, and perhaps even messages from Washington. American newspaper, Politico praised the visit.

The call between Beijing and Kyiv, and the discussion of Beijing's new role in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, reminds us of China's recent success in mediating between Iran and Saudi Arabia in Beijing after years of military and soft wars in the region.

Undoubtedly, China wants to play a more prominent role in global diplomacy as part of the Chinese Communist Party's plan to present China as a political and economic leader and compete with the United States for these positions.

So, will China succeed again in overcoming obstacles and bringing together the views of the conflicting parties? Or are the intricacies of the Russian-Ukrainian war still complicated?


Edited By: Ashelyn Wagner

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Tags: #ChinaUkraineRelations #ChineseGlobalPower #PeaceNegotiations #UkraineRussiaConflict


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