Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko will visit China on February 28 for a state visit, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Saturday.
Lukashenko is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has backed Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, with Belarus dependent on its neighbour both financially and politically.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
“At the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko will pay a state visit to China from February 28 to March 2,” spokesperson Hua Chunying said.
Last September, Xi and Lukashenko announced an “all-weather” strategic partnership, when they met in the Uzbek city of Samarkand.
A year ago, Belarus, which shares a border with Ukraine and Russia, allowed Russia to use its territory as a launchpad for its attack on Ukraine. Lukashenko said earlier this month that Belarus was ready to do so again.
Kyiv has voiced concerns for months that Belarus could join the war on Russia’s side, a potential threat that has forced it to divert troops to defend the north of Ukraine while waging war with Russia in the east and south.
In a phone call on Friday, Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang told his Belarusian counterpart Sergei Aleinik that Beijing was willing to work with Minsk to deepen mutual political trust, the Chinese foreign ministry said.
China will also continue to support Belarus in maintaining its national stability, and will oppose attempts by “external forces” to interfere in its internal affairs or impose “illegal” unilateral sanctions on Minsk, Qin told Aleinik.
Separately on Friday, Lukashenko held a long conversation with his Russian counterpart Putin, according to a social media channel linked to the Belarussian leader’s press service, without giving details.
The Kremlin has yet to provide any statement about the conversation.
China’s peace proposal
China on Friday released a 12-point position paper on the conflict, calling for urgent peace talks and a “political settlement” to the Ukraine crisis.
Timed to coincide with the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the paper urges all parties to “support Russia and Ukraine in working in the same direction and resuming direct dialogue as quickly as possible”.
Ukraine President Volodomyr Zelenskyy welcomed some elements of the Chinese proposal, but said only the country where a war is being fought should be the initiator of a peace plan.
Zelenskyy said he was planning to meet Xi and noted Beijing’s plan appeared to show that “there is respect for our territorial integrity, security issues”.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Zelenskyy, said any plan to end Russia’s war in Ukraine must involve the withdrawal of Moscow’s troops back to Ukraine’s 1991 borders at the time of the Soviet Union’s collapse.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he will visit China in “early April”, and called on Beijing to “help us pressure Russia” to end the war in Ukraine, the AFP news agency reported on Saturday.
Macron said peace was only possible if “the Russian aggression was halted, troops withdrawn and territorial sovereignty of Ukraine and its people was respected”.
“The fact that China is engaging in peace efforts is a good thing,” he said, asking Beijing “not to supply any arms to Russia”.
He also sought Beijing’s help to “exert pressure on Russia to ensure it never uses chemical or nuclear weapons and it stops this aggression prior to negotiations”.