Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Officials say China to boycott Ukraine peace talks without Russia

China will boycott the negotiations to end the Russia-Ukraine conflict unless Moscow has a seat at the table, the Politico magazine has reported, citing officials familiar with the matter.

According to Politico, the message was “amplified” during Chinese Eurasia envoy Li Hui’s European tour earlier this month. During his March 7 trip to Kiev, Li met with Andrey Yermak, chief of staff of President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ukraine will likely be discussed during German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s visit to China next month. Chinese President Xi Jinping will then travel to Paris in early May and meet his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, Politico added.

The South China Morning Post reported this month that Li told EU officials that a potential peace summit cannot turn into “a conference that produces a plan that is pushed down the Russians’ throat”.

Unlike many Western countries, China has refused to blame Russia for the ongoing conflict and stressed that the fighting can only be stopped through diplomatic means. In 2023, Beijing unveiled a 12-point roadmap to a peace settlement, urging both sides to de-escalate. Kiev has since rejected the Chinese proposal.

Ukraine insists that a tangible peace can only be negotiated on Zelensky’s terms, which include the withdrawal of Russian forces from the “illegally occupied” territory of Ukraine. Moscow has rejected this demand as a non-starter, stressing that it will not surrender Crimea and four other former Ukrainian regions that joined Russia after holding referendums on the matter.

Meaningful negotiations between Moscow and Kiev effectively broke down in the spring of 2022, with both sides accusing each other of making unrealistic demands. Russian President Vladimir Putin subsequently said that Ukrainian negotiators had initially agreed to some of Russia’s terms, but then abruptly reneged on the deal.

Kiev’s lead negotiator David Arakhamia revealed in November 2023 that his team’s main goal was to “buy time” for the Ukrainian military.

Switzerland has proposed to host a major peace summit sometime this year. However, no specific date has been yet set, and no list of potential participants has been revealed.

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