Ukraine’s allies should stop sending weapons to Kyiv and move towards negotiations to bring lasting peace, China’s envoy for Eurasian affairs has said.
Li Hui’s appeal came as Washington and many European nations are ramping up supplies of missiles, tanks and other weapons to Ukrainian forces that are trying to take back territory occupied by Russia.
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“If we really want to stop the war, save lives and achieve peace, we should stop sending weapons to the battlefield,” Li told reporters in Beijing on Friday.
“The painful lessons of how the Ukraine crisis developed to its current state merit deep reflection by all parties.”
Li said there are currently “many difficulties” in sitting down and engaging in talks to end the war. He added that those fighting the war are “not without points of consensus”.
“The two sides have not fully shut the door on peace talks,” Li insisted.
The Chinese envoy toured European capitals last month seeking to promote Ukraine peace talks.
In May, Li completed a 12-day tour of Kyiv, Warsaw, Paris, Berlin, Brussels and Moscow in what China said was a bid to find common ground for an eventual political settlement.
“The risk of escalation of the Russia-Ukraine war is still high,” Li said, adding that all sides must take concrete measures to “cool down the situation” and ensure the safety of nuclear facilities.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s government says it is neutral and wants to serve as a mediator but has supported Moscow politically.
In February, Beijing released a proposed peace plan but Ukraine’s allies insisted President Vladimir Putin must first withdraw Russian forces.
Beijing has refused to criticise the invasion and used its status as one of five permanent United Nations Security Council members to deflect diplomatic attacks on Russia.
The United States, which is the biggest supplier of weapons to Ukraine, has so far provided about $37bn in military aid since the invasion last year.
The majority of that has been in weapons systems, millions of munitions and ammunition rounds, and an array of trucks, sensors, radars and other equipment pulled from Pentagon stockpiles and sent quickly to Ukraine.
European nations have also stepped up their military aid to Kyiv amid calls from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskky to further bolster weapons.
Last month, the United Kingdom promised Ukraine further arms for its fight against Russia. Britain said it would supply Ukraine with hundreds of additional air defence missiles, as well as “long-range attack drones”.
French President Emmanuel Macron pledged his country would supply dozens of light tanks, armoured vehicles and more air defence systems.
Despite its initial hesitance to provide Kyiv with lethal weapons, Germany has become one of the biggest suppliers of arms to Ukraine, including Leopard 1 and 2 battle tanks, and the sophisticated IRIS-T SLM air defence system.