Spanish PM urges China’s Xi to speak with Ukraine’s Zelenskyy

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez praises parts of China’s 12-point proposal to end the Russia-Ukraine war.

Pedro Sanchez and Xi Jinping
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez shake hands in Beijing [Moncloa Palace/Borja Puig de la Bellacasa/Handout via Reuters]

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has encouraged Chinese President Xi Jinping to talk to the Ukrainian leadership and learn firsthand about Kyiv’s peace formula to help bring an end to Russia’s invasion.

Sanchez told a news conference in Beijing on Friday he had informed Xi, who visited Moscow on March 20-21, that Spain supported the proposals made by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. These include a demand to restore Ukraine’s territory to the status quo before Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

“I believe it’s a plan that lays the foundations for a durable peace in Ukraine and is perfectly aligned with the United Nations charter and its principles, which have been violated by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin with his invasion,” he said.

“I transmitted our concern over the illegal invasion of Ukraine,” Sanchez said, adding that he encouraged Xi to talk to President Zelenskyy in order to get to know firsthand Kyiv’s peace plan.

Last month, Beijing put forward its own 12-point position paper on a political solution to the war in Ukraine, which included a comprehensive ceasefire in the conflict.

However, the paper also raised eyebrows among some EU officials in China for not stating that the aggressor in the conflict was Russia.

Sanchez on Thursday praised two aspects of China’s position paper – “its complete and categorical rejection of not only the use but even the threat to use nuclear weapons” and its respect for territorial integrity.

Sanchez declined to say what Xi had said about the issue.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez
Chinese Premier Li Qiang and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez review the military honours in Beijing, China [Moncloa Palace/Borja Puig de la Bellacasa/Handout via Reuters]

Russia has said Ukraine must accept its loss of Crimea and four other regions in the south and east of the country.

According to a readout of the meeting from Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, Xi called for an end to a “Cold War mentality” and to the pressure of “extreme” sanctions, though he did not name Russia.

“We hope that all parties concerned will build a balanced, effective and sustainable European security architecture through dialogue and consultation,” CCTV quoted Xi as saying.

Later on Friday, the European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell said China cannot be a mediator in the war in Ukraine as it leans too much towards Russia but it could play the role of facilitator to reach a peace deal with Moscow.

“China does not distinguish between aggressor and victim of aggression,” Borrell told a panel at the Spanish capital Madrid. “China doesn’t call for a withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.”

But China should use its influence over Russia to pressure for peace in Ukraine, he added, echoing Sanchez’s comments.

Spain, a NATO member whose foreign and security policy is closely aligned with that of the United States, is a staunch ally of Ukraine. In July it assumes the rotating presidency of the European Union’s Council, which groups the bloc’s 27 national governments.

Sanchez also accused Putin of seeking to “weaken” the EU’s “multilateral project for peace and welfare”.

The Spanish prime minister said he agreed with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s view that relations between the EU and China were “complex” and he stressed the need for reciprocity and a level playing field between them.

The absence of any official engagement between Xi and Zelenskyy since the war broke out has worried EU leaders, not least because it contrasts with signs of close personal ties between Xi and Putin, such as when both leaders greeted one another as “dear friend” in their most recent meeting.

Von der Leyen, who in a speech on Thursday said China was becoming “more repressive at home and more assertive abroad”, is scheduled to visit Beijing herself next week alongside French President Emmanuel Macron.

Source: News Agencies