China calls for a cease-fire between Russia and Ukraine while questioning claims of neutrality

Hong Kong (CNN) China has repeated its calls for a political settlement to the Ukraine conflict on the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion, at a time when Beijing is under increasing pressure. pressure from the United States and its allies about its growing partnership with Moscow.

in a recent version position paper On Friday, China’s foreign ministry called for a resumption of peace talks, an end to unilateral sanctions, and stressed its opposition to the use of nuclear weapons — a position Chinese leader Xi Jinping communicated to Western leaders last year.

The 12-point document is part of Beijing’s latest efforts to present itself as a neutral peace broker, as it struggles to balance its “borderless” relationship with Moscow and strained relations with the West as the war drags on.

“Conflict and war do not benefit anyone. All parties must show rationality and restraint, avoid fanning fires and exacerbating tensions, and prevent the crisis from deteriorating or even getting out of control,” the newspaper said.

Beijing’s claim to neutrality has been severely undermined by its refusal to acknowledge the nature of the conflict – it has so far avoided calling it an “invasion” – and its diplomatic and economic support for Moscow.

Western officials have also raised concerns that China may be considering providing lethal military aid to Russia, an accusation Beijing has denied.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Wang Yi, a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China, in Moscow on February 22, 2022.

The policy document stresses many of China’s standard talking points, which include urging the two sides to resume peace talks. “Dialogue and negotiation are the only viable solution to the Ukrainian crisis,” she said, adding that China would play a “constructive role,” without giving details.

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Despite claiming that “the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries must be effectively upheld,” the document does not recognize Russia’s violation of Ukrainian sovereignty.

Moscow and Kiev showed some interest in the position paper, but their responses on Friday also underscored the formidable obstacles to dialogue.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it “highly appreciates the sincere desire” of China to contribute to the settlement of the conflict, and added that Moscow is open to achieving the goals of its so-called special military operation through political and diplomatic means, including recognition of “new regional realities” – something it has sworn Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky never compromised.

Zelensky appeared open to talking with China, telling a news conference on Friday that he was pleased that China had started talking about how to end Ukraine’s conflict with Russia — but asked what steps might follow Beijing’s words. He said China had talked about its territorial integrity in general terms but did not specify which country, adding that Ukraine needed to work on these issues with China.

“He does not mention the territorial integrity of our country,” Zelensky said.

When asked how he would place the countries removed from Ukraine on his side, Zelensky said: “As far as I know, China respects territorial integrity, historically, it respects it, and therefore must do everything it can so that the Russian Federation leaves our territory. Because it means that Respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Thin lined barbs

Much of the language used in the document appears aimed at the West. In a veiled criticism of the United States, the newspaper said that the “Cold War mentality” must be abandoned.

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“The security of the 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 properly addressed,” she said, apparently echoing Moscow’s view that the West provoked the war through NATO expansion.

He also appears to be critical of the wide-ranging economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and other Western countries. She added that “unilateral sanctions and maximum pressure cannot solve the problem, but only create new problems.” “The countries concerned must stop abusing unilateral sanctions and ‘long-term jurisdiction’ against other countries, in order to do their share in de-escalating the Ukraine crisis.

The paper was quickly criticized by US officials, with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan saying the war “could end tomorrow if Russia stops attacking Ukraine and withdraws its forces”.

“My first reaction to that is that it could stop at the first point, which is respect for the sovereignty of all nations,” Sullivan told CNN. “Ukraine was not attacking Russia. NATO was not attacking Russia. The United States was not attacking Russia. This was a war of Putin’s choosing.”

In Beijing, the European Union’s ambassador to China, Jorge Toledo, told reporters at a briefing that China’s position paper is not a peace proposal, adding that the European Union is “studying the paper closely,” according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, Ukraine called the position paper a “good sign” but urged China to do more.

“China should do everything it can to stop the war, restore peace in Ukraine and urge Russia to withdraw its forces,” said Ukraine’s charge d’affaires to China Zhanna Leshchinska at the same press conference in Beijing.

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“With impartiality, China has to talk to both sides: Russia and Ukraine, and now we can see China not talking to Ukraine,” she said, noting that Kiev was not consulted before the paper was released.

The position paper was first discussed last week by senior diplomat Wang Yi at a security conference in Munich, where he tried to portray Beijing as a responsible negotiator for peace during a diplomatic charm offensive in Europe.

Wang visited Moscow as the last stop on his European tour, and met Putin on Wednesday.

Putin, who greeted Wang with outstretched arms as the Chinese diplomat entered the meeting room, He said Relations between Russia and China were “reaching new stages”.

“Russian-Chinese relations are developing as we planned in previous years. Everything is moving forward and developing,” Putin told reporters, sitting next to Wang. “Cooperation in the international arena between the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China, as we have said many times, is very important for the stability of the international situation.”

Wang said the two countries “often encounter crisis and chaos, but there are always opportunities in crises.”

“This requires us to identify changes more voluntarily and respond to changes more actively to strengthen our comprehensive strategic partnership,” Wang said.

CNN’s Beijing bureau and Jake Kwon contributed reporting.

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