China on Friday called for a ceasefire and peace talks between Ukraine and Russia. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky cautiously welcomed Beijing’s initiative, but said the plan’s success would depend on deeds, not words.
Beijing says its stance is neutral in the war that began a year ago, but has also said it maintains “unlimited friendship” with Russia and has refused to criticize the invasion of Ukraine, or even call it an invasion. He has accused the West of provoking the conflict and “fanning the flames” by supplying Ukraine with weapons.
“I think the fact that China has started talking about Ukraine is not bad,” Zelenskyy said at a news conference on Friday. “But the question is what comes after the words. The question is in the steps and where they lead”.
The plan released by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterates well-known positions, and analysts say that Beijing would hardly act as a mediator.
However, some observers warned that Ukraine and its allies should exercise caution as rejection of what China sees as its peace proposal could prompt Beijing to provide Russia with weapons.
Volodymyr Fesenko, director of the Kiev-based independent think tank Penta Center, believes that Zelenskyy “will try to take China into account… so as not to let China and Russia get closer.”
“As long as China presents peace initiatives, it will be forced to maintain neutrality and refrain from providing weapons and direct military aid to Russia,” Fesenko told The Associated Press.
Ukraine could also see “a scenario where China at least puts pressure on Russia to contain the use of nuclear weapons and creates a mechanism to control nuclear power plants in Ukraine,” he said.
For its part, Beijing needs to clarify its position, whether or not kyiv and Moscow pay close attention to it, said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Beijing’s Renmin University.
“China deems it necessary to repeat its self-perceived neutrality at this juncture, in order to retain some international influence by not only criticizing NATO, but also distinguishing itself from Russia’s behavior,” Shi noted.
China’s proposal calls for the territorial integrity of all countries to be respected, but it does not say what will happen to the territory occupied by Russia since the invasion. It also calls for the lifting of “unilateral” sanctions on Russia, indirectly criticizes the expansion of the NATO alliance and condemns threats to resort to nuclear force.
The proposal is “a public relations attempt by China,” said Li Mingjiang, a professor and international security expert at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. “I’m not convinced that this policy is going to enhance your credibility as an honest mediator.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry praised the proposal, saying it shares China’s ideas, including rejecting Western sanctions. At the same time, spokeswoman Maria Zakharova ratified Moscow’s demand that Ukraine recognize the territories won by Russia, renounce its bid to join NATO and assume neutral status, among other conditions for peace.
Ukraine has said that it will not accept peace without the return of all of its territory.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy, tweeted that any peace plan that only calls for a ceasefire and allows Russia to continue occupying any part of Ukraine “is not about peace, but about freezing the war, about defeating Ukraine, with the next stages of the Russian genocide”.
Ukraine’s allies also expressed skepticism. US national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN that his first reaction to the proposal was that he “could stop at point one, which is: Respect the sovereignty of all nations.”
“This war could end tomorrow if Russia stopped attacking Ukraine and withdrew its forces,” he added. “This was a chosen war.”
German government spokesman Wolfgang Buchner said the Chinese proposal contained several important points, but was missing a fundamental one: “First of all, the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.”
On Thursday, China abstained when the United Nations General Assembly passed a non-binding resolution calling on Russia to end hostilities in Ukraine and withdraw its forces.
The 12-point peace proposal also calls for measures to prevent attacks against civilians, maintain the security of nuclear facilities, create humanitarian corridors and guarantee the export of grain. It also calls for an end to the “Cold War mentality,” a term China often uses to refer to what it sees as US hegemony and the maintenance of alliances like NATO.
“Dialogue and negotiation are the only viable solution to the Ukraine crisis,” the proposal read. It offered no details on what form the negotiations should take, but stated that “China will continue to play a constructive role in this regard.”
Zelenskyy said on Friday that his main goal was to make sure that China does not supply Russia with weapons. And he expressed confidence that China’s involvement could be helpful in isolating Russia. “Our task is to bring everyone together to isolate one,” he said.
He also said he would like to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping: “I think it will benefit our countries and the security of the world.”
China’s proposal came at a time when US-China relations are at a historic low point over Taiwan, disputes over trade and technology, human rights and China’s aggressive actions in the Sea of South China.
The United States recently claimed that China may be preparing to send military aid to Russia, an accusation Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin called “mere slander and defamation.”
On Friday, he criticized the “massive misinformation in this regard against China.”
Wang was referring to information published in the German magazine Der Spiegel, which claimed that the Russian military was negotiating with a small Chinese drone manufacturer for the “components and know-how” necessary for the country to manufacture about 100 explosive drones at the same time. month.