Xi holds call with Ukraine’s Zelensky

Published April 27, 2023
This combination of pictures created on April 26, 2023 shows Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) leaving from 10 Downing Street in central London on February 8, 2023, after meeting with Britain’s Prime Minister, and China’s President Xi Jinping (R) attending a meeting with Russian Prime Minister in Moscow on March 21, 2023. — AFP
This combination of pictures created on April 26, 2023 shows Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) leaving from 10 Downing Street in central London on February 8, 2023, after meeting with Britain’s Prime Minister, and China’s President Xi Jinping (R) attending a meeting with Russian Prime Minister in Moscow on March 21, 2023. — AFP

BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky by phone on Wednesday, the first known call between the two leaders since the start of Russia’s invasion.

The nearly one-hour discussion, which reportedly included Xi advocating for peace negotiations, was met by Russian accusations that Ukraine was undermining efforts to end the fighting.

Beijing says it is neutral in the Ukraine conflict and Xi has never condemned the Russian invasion, but the Chinese leader has come under increased pressure from Western nations to step in and mediate.

A 12-point “position paper” published by China in February was seen by many Western governments as skewed towards Russia, and a friendly Moscow visit in March by Xi to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin led to widespread criticism.

“I had a long and meaningful phone call with President Xi Jinping,” Zelensky said on Twitter.

“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,” he wrote.

Zelensky’s spokesman Sergiy Nykyforov said on Facebook that the two leaders had “an almost one-hour-long telephone conversation”.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported that during the call — which was initiated by Kyiv — Xi told Zelensky that “talks and negotiation” were the “only way out” of the war.

“On the issue of the Ukraine crisis, China has always stood on the side of peace and its core position is to promote peace talks,” CCTV reported Xi as saying.

According to a readout of the call, Xi said China “will neither watch the fire from the other side, nor add fuel to the fire, let alone take advantage of the crisis to profit”.

Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2023

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