In the aftermath of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Chinese President Xi Jinping held a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, marking their first communication since the conflict began. The call lasted nearly an hour and was described as “lengthy and significant” by President Zelensky. During the conversation, Beijing expressed its desire to send an envoy to Kyiv to mediate in achieving a political settlement.
Zelensky expressed optimism about the future of the bilateral relationship between China and Ukraine following his first wartime phone conversation with President Xi. This call took place after Xi and Zelensky had previously expressed their willingness to communicate with each other, which was discussed during Xi’s trip to Moscow in March. The Ukrainian leader also mentioned the appointment of Ukraine’s ambassador to China to contribute to developing this relationship.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has had his first conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. China has expressed interest in dispatching an envoy to mediate in Kyiv to pursue a “political settlement.”#XiJinping #Zelensky pic.twitter.com/MOOodN8ENF
— News Live (@NewsLiveFree) April 27, 2023
Xi Offers to Mediate in the Ukrainian Conflict
According to the Chinese state media, the latter initiated the recent phone call between Xi and Zelensky. During the conversation, the Chinese president emphasized that China couldn’t remain a “bystander” in the conflict, and as a responsible nation, it was its duty to contribute towards achieving peace. Xi reaffirmed China’s stance on promoting peace through dialogue and negotiations, stating that China would support peace efforts in the Ukrainian crisis. The Global Times reported Xi as saying, “China always stands on the peace side, and China’s fundamental position is to facilitate peace talks.”
I 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.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) April 26, 2023
In a statement issued by the Chinese foreign ministry, it was announced that a former ambassador to Russia would be sent to Ukraine as an envoy to facilitate a political resolution to the ongoing conflict. The statement had a constructive tone and acknowledged Kyiv’s stance that Russia’s annexations couldn’t result in the breakup of Ukrainian territory. Additionally, the statement emphasized that Beijing places significant importance on its longstanding relationship with Ukraine.
The spokesperson for Russia’s foreign ministry, Maria Zakharova, expressed her approval of the Chinese approach towards the Ukrainian conflict. However, Zakharova condemned Ukraine’s position, stating that Kyiv rejected any viable proposals to resolve the situation. Although she praised Beijing’s commitment to promoting a peaceful negotiation process, she criticized Kyiv’s rejection of sound initiatives to achieve a settlement.
China Considers Itself an Impartial Mediator in Ukraine Conflict
Beijing has positioned itself as a neutral mediator in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, emphasizing that it has not taken sides in the matter. Despite China’s reluctance to explicitly condemn Russia’s 2022 invasion, it has put forth a 12-point peace plan that calls for de-escalation and an eventual ceasefire. However, this plan has been criticized by Western nations, who have expressed concern that Putin could use the vague proposal to promote a truce that leaves his forces in control of occupied territory.
During his phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, Chinese President Xi reiterated that respect for each country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is the foundation for their bilateral relationship. Xi further stated that China’s commitment to strengthening ties with Ukraine remains steadfast and consistent, regardless of changes in the international arena. “China will continue to work with Ukraine to advance mutually beneficial cooperation,” Xi assured Zelensky.
China has been actively working towards portraying itself as a peace broker in recent times. This was evident when the country helped reconcile rival Middle Eastern countries, Saudi Arabia and Iran, earlier this year. During his visit to Moscow in March, Chinese President Xi Jinping had peace talks on the agenda, and there was speculation that a virtual meeting between Xi and Ukrainian President Zelensky could follow. However, this did not happen; instead, Xi signed an agreement to take China-Russia relations to a new level of cooperation.
US Cautious about Prospects of the Peace Deal
The United States has welcomed the recent phone call between the Chinese and Ukrainian leaders, describing it as a positive development. However, US national security spokesperson John Kirby cautioned that it was too early to predict if the conversation would lead to a substantial peace initiative. Kirby acknowledged the importance of the call and remarked, “That’s a good thing.” Nonetheless, he stated it needed to be clarified if the phone call would lead to a significant peace movement or proposal.
European countries expressed concern this week after the Chinese ambassador to France stated that former Soviet Union states, such as Ukraine, which gained independence during its dissolution, “don’t have actual status in international law.” China later clarified that its stance on the autonomy of ex-Soviet states remains the same and that the ambassador’s remarks represented his “personal opinions.”
Ukraine’s Zelensky addresses Mexican Congress
During a Thursday video conference with the Mexico-Ukraine Friendship Group, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Mexican legislators to back Ukraine in its struggle against the invading Russian forces. He criticized those who deny Ukraine’s quest for peace, emphasizing that some leaders have never visited Ukraine nor witnessed the harsh consequences of Russian aggression.
During his first address to Mexican legislators, since Putin launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky criticized some leaders who have not visited Ukraine and accused them of seeking to achieve populism by denying Ukraine’s pursuit of peace. He was referring to those who said Ukraine is supposedly unprepared for peace.
This speech followed controversial remarks from Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who attributed the fight to “decisions made by two nations” and seemed to implicate Ukraine in Russia’s decision to invade. On Wednesday, Lula retracted his earlier statement and condemned “the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.” Brazil has been trying to position itself as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine.
Mexico has opted for neutrality in the Ukrainian conflict, declining to join sanctions against Russia. Nonetheless, it has supported various United Nations resolutions that have favored Ukraine, including a resolution denouncing Russia’s invasion in March 2022 and a text from October condemning the “attempted illegal annexation” of territory.
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