Macron urges China’s Xi to pick up the phone to ZelenskyApril 8, 2023
London: French President Emmanuel Macron and the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, have used their visit to Beijing to urge the Chinese president to pick up the phone to Ukraine’s leader, Volodymyr Zelensky.
Macron and von der Leyen met Xi Jinping in Beijing where Macron said the West must engage China to help end the crisis and prevent spiralling tensions that could split global powers into warring blocs.
China has put forward a peace plan for a political settlement to the war in Ukraine in which it has urged an end to the sanctions imposed against Russia. The plan does not call on Russia to withdraw its troops from its neighbour.
Xi signed a “no limits” partnership with Putin before the invasion and recently visited Moscow, disgusting European leaders who saw it as China endorsing Putin’s war.
During their meeting, Macron told Xi the Russian invasion had ended decades of peace in Europe and that the Chinese leader held the key to the next step.
“I know I can count on you … to bring Russia back to reason and everyone back to the negotiating table,” he said during the meeting.
French President Emmanuel Macron and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet in Beijing.Credit:
“We need to find a lasting peace that respects internationally recognised borders and avoids any form of escalation.
“And I believe that this is also an important issue for China, as much as it is for France and Europe.”
Xi’s response did not indicate he had been swayed. “China continues to make an appeal for peace and for a political solution to be found and with France, we call for restraint from all international partners,” he said.
But Xi also warned against the war further deteriorating or even spiralling out of control and reiterated his country’s opposition to the use of nuclear weapons and attacks on nuclear power plants.
Xi’s perceived endorsement of Putin’s invasion, while claiming to be neutral, has caused anger in Europe and contributed to a further hardening of sentiment towards Beijing.
Von der Leyen said she, too, urged Xi to pick up the phone to Zelensky, after the Ukrainian leader’s revelation that he has not spoken with Xi since the war began, despite China’s efforts to promote itself as peacemaker.
“It was interesting to hear that President Xi reiterated his willingness to speak when conditions and times are right. I think this is a positive element,” von der Leyen told reporters in Beijing.
“China being a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council has a big responsibility to use its influence in a friendship, that is built on decades, with Russia.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen holds a press conference after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.Credit: AP
“And we count on China to really exert this responsibility and to be very clear in the messaging.”
Before departing Brussels, von der Leyen warned Beijing that its conduct over Ukraine would determine the future of European Union-Sino relations and said that the bloc needed to “de-risk” but not “decouple” from China.
She said the trade relationship was becoming increasingly imbalanced and the EU trade deficit had more than tripled.
A planned China-EU Investment Agreement was frozen after China sanctioned a string of European entities and MEPs. But von der Leyen said the agreement was not raised by either side during talks.
“Our position is that we do have to reassess the comprehensive agreement on investment,” she said.
Macron said he did not believe in cutting ties with Beijing and Xi. He travelled to China with a sizeable French business delegation and signed a string of agreements involving Airbus, energy giant EDF and cosmetics company L’Oreal.
Noah Barkin, a senior adviser at research provider Rhodium Group, told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age Macron was pushing business deals amid the crisis.
“Europe’s schizophrenia on China was on full display in Beijing,” Barkin said.
“Von der Leyen stressed the need for Europe to de-risk while Macron was oozing economic opportunism, with his CEOs and business deals.
“Europe has a degree of leverage with China at a time when its economy faces serious headwinds.
“It might have made better use of that leverage by not mixing Ukraine war diplomacy and business.”
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