May 26, 2023
Chinese Envoy Meets Russian Foreign Minister Over War in Ukraine
(Bloomberg) -- A Chinese envoy tasked with promoting Beijing’s efforts to broker an end to Russia’s war in Ukraine met Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Friday.
Lavrov thanked Li Hui, China’s special representative for Eurasian Affairs and a former ambassador to Russia, for Beijing’s “balanced position” on the war, according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry in Moscow. Russia was committed to a “political and diplomatic resolution” of the conflict, it said.
China hasn’t commented on the meeting so far. With the invasion ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin now in its 16th month, Li’s visit to Moscow came after trips to Ukraine and to several European states as Chinese leader Xi Jinping sought to step up diplomatic engagement to try to halt the fighting.
Li met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv last week, according to a readout by the Foreign Ministry in Beijing. Ukraine didn’t acknowledge that the talks took place, while listing a series of meetings between Li and officials in Kyiv.
Backed by weapons supplied by the US and its allies, Ukraine is poised to start a counteroffensive aimed at pushing Russian forces out of occupied areas of southern and eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine has said it won’t accept proposals that include the loss of its territory or a frozen conflict. That appeared to be a direct rebuff of a position paper China published in February, which proposed a cease-fire that would allow Russian troops to remain in place on Ukrainian territory, while also stressing the need to respect territorial integrity.
Xi and Zelenskiy spoke by phone in April for the first time since the war erupted. The Chinese leader made a three-day visit to Moscow in March for talks with Putin, a contrast in approach that has underlined US and European skepticism about Beijing’s attempts to mediate in the conflict.
The European Commission on Thursday called for China to play a “constructive” role in the search for peace in Ukraine after Li met a senior European Union official in Brussels. China should support demands for “unconditionally withdrawing all forces and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders,” the EU’s executive arm said in a statement.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a Washington Post interview earlier this month indicated confidence that Ukraine would regain more territory and said the Biden administration was open to a Chinese mediation role if it backed a “just and durable” peace.
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