BEIJING: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday he had urged Xi Jinping to press ally Russia to end its “senseless” war in Ukraine and that the Chinese president had agreed to back a peace conference in Switzerland.

Scholz said after a meeting with Xi at Beijing’s Diaoyutai State Guesthouse on Tuesday that “China’s word carries weight in Russia”. “I have therefore asked President Xi to influence Russia so that Putin finally calls off his senseless campaign, withdraw his troops and ends this terrible war,” he said on social media platform X.

He said Xi had agreed to back a peace conference in Switzerland, which is due to take place in June without Russia in attendance.

Welcoming Xi’s backing, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy responded on X that China could help deliver a “just peace” for his country by playing an “active role” in the international conference. China says it is a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict but it has been criticised for refusing to condemn Moscow’s offensive.

China and Russia have ramped up economic cooperation and diplomatic contacts in recent years, with their strategic partnership only growing closer since the invasion of Ukraine.

Scholz said in talks with Xi on Tuesday “the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine and Russia’s arms build-up have a very significant negative impact on security in Europe”, according to a recording provided by the chancellor’s office.

“They directly affect our core interests,” he told Xi, adding they “damage the entire international order because they violate a principle of the United Nations Charter”.

Scholz, whose country is Ukraine’s second-biggest military backer after the United States, stressed at a news conference later that it was important to “advance the diplomatic efforts that Ukraine is also working very hard on”.

“I believe that this progress is necessary because, in addition to the military support for Ukraine from Germany and its allies, there is also a need for a dialogue between the two countries,” he said.

‘Increasing risks’

Chinese state media, in turn, said Xi had highlighted the importance of ties in the face of “increasing risks and challenges”. State broadcaster CCTV said Xi laid out what state media described as “four principles to prevent the Ukraine crisis from spiralling out of control and to restore peace”.

Nations must focus on “the uphol­ding of peace and stability and refrain from seeking selfish gains”, Xi said, as well as “cool down the situation and not add fuel to the fire”.

“We need to create conditions for the restoration of peace and refrain from further exacerbating tensions,” Xi said, while aiming to “reduce the negative impact on the world economy”.

The “four principles” echoed a Beijing paper last year that called for a “political settlement” to the conflict, which Western countries said could enable Russia to hold much of the territory it has seized in Ukraine.

CCTV also released footage, set to an uplifting classical tune, of the two leaders going for a walk in the picturesque garden of the statehouse for “in-depth exchanges”.

The chancellor of the world’s third largest economy landed in China, the second largest, on Sunday, accompanied by an extensive delegation of ministers and business executives, for his second visit since taking office.

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2024

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