China’s President Xi Jinping said he supported solving the Ukraine crisis through talks in a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin after Moscow launched an invasion of its neighbour.
In a readout of the call on Friday on state broadcaster CCTV, Xi pointed out the “situation in eastern Ukraine has undergone rapid changes … [and] China supports Russia and Ukraine to resolve the issue through negotiation”.
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Russian forces have launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, unleashing air strikes and sending troops deep into the country, after weeks of diplomatic efforts failed to deter Putin from launching the military operation.
Beijing has trod a cautious diplomatic line on the crisis and refused to call it an “invasion” or condemn the actions of Russia, its close ally.
Xi said on the call with Putin that it is important to “abandon the Cold War mentality, attach importance to and respect the reasonable security concerns of all countries, and form a balanced, effective and sustainable European security mechanism through negotiations”.
According to the Chinese media readout, Putin outlined the reasons for Russia launching the “special military operation”.
“The United States and NATO have long ignored Russia’s reasonable security concerns, repeatedly reneged on their commitments, and continued to advance military deployment eastward, challenging Russia’s strategic bottom line,” Putin told Xi, according to CCTV.
“Russia is willing to conduct high-level negotiations with Ukraine.”
While most nations in Asia rallied to support Ukraine, China has continued to denounce sanctions against Russia and blamed the United States and its allies for provoking Moscow.
Beijing, worried about US power in Asia, has increasingly aligned its foreign policy with Russia to challenge the West.
“China feels very strongly that the United States is trying to encircle and contain it. Russia feels the same way. The combined pressure on both of them has pushed them together,” Einar Tangen, an analyst at the Taihe Institute, told Al Jazeera.
As the Ukraine crisis has escalated, China has been forced to balance its close Russia ties with major economic interests in Europe.
And Moscow’s approach is in stark contrast to China’s long-standing stated foreign policy position of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs.
Xi said China was “willing to work with all parties in the international community to advocate a common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security concept, and firmly safeguard the international system with the United Nations at the core”, according to the CCTV readout.
The Kremlin said in its readout of Friday’s call that Xi underlined that he “views the Russian leadership’s action in the crisis situation with respect”.
In a reference to new Western sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin noted Putin and Xi agreed “it’s inadmissible to use illegitimate sanctions for achieving selfish goals of certain countries”.