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Thursday June 01, 2023

Macron says counting on Xi to ‘bring Russia to its senses’

By AFP
April 07, 2023

BEIJING: French President Emmanuel Macron called on his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Thursday to “bring Russia to its senses” over Ukraine and urged him not to deliver weapons to Moscow.

The French president, who arrived on Wednesday for a three-day state visit, has made clear he is seeking to dissuade China from supporting Russia´s invasion of its neighbour. “I know I can count on you to bring Russia to its senses and everyone to the negotiating table,” Macron told Xi during a bilateral meeting in Beijing.

During the talks, Xi expressed an intention to speak with Ukraine´s President Volodymyr Zelensky when the time comes, according to a French diplomat. Xi went to Moscow last month to reaffirm his alliance with Vladimir Putin -- framed as an anti-Western front -- but has not yet spoken on the phone with Zelensky.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, who is accompanying Macron on his visit, welcomed Xi´s stated willingness to hold talks with Zelensky. “It was interesting to hear that President Xi reiterated his willingness to speak when conditions and time are right,” she told a news conference in Beijing following talks with the Chinese leader.

Macron “pressed Xi Jinping not to deliver anything to Russia that would be used for its war against Ukraine”, added the French diplomat, following Western claims that Beijing could be mulling arms shipments to support Russia´s war. Those comments were echoed by von der Leyen, who said she had warned Chinese leaders on Thursday that arms shipments to Russia would “significantly harm” relations.

“China´s position on this is crucial for the European Union,” she said. “As a member of the UN Security Council, there is a big responsibility and we expect that China will play its role and promote a just peace, one that respects Ukraine´s sovereignty and territorial integrity, one of the cornerstones of the UN charter,” von der Leyen said.

Macron has said during his trip that Beijing can play a “major role” in finding a path to peace in the conflict and welcomed China´s “willingness to commit to a resolution”. Moscow poured cold water on prospects of a Chinese mediation, insisting on Thursday it had “no choice” but to press on with its offensive in Ukraine.

“Undoubtedly, China has a very effective and commanding potential for mediation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “But the situation with Ukraine is complex, so far there are no prospects for a political settlement,” he said.

But Macron´s visit to China, his first since 2019, comes as Western pressure mounts on Beijing to help push for peace in Ukraine. Beijing is officially neutral, and Xi has never condemned the Russian invasion.

Macron said he wants to “be a voice that unites Europe” over Ukraine, and that coming to China with von der Leyen serves to “underline the consistency of this approach”. Von der Leyen said in a Thursday meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang that relations between the EU and China had grown “complex in recent years”.

Macron´s talks with Xi were followed by a trilateral meeting with von der Leyen, after which the French and Chinese leaders held a state dinner. Macron will travel to Guangzhou in southern China to meet students on Friday, taking with him a broad delegation of top politicians, business leaders and even celebrities, including composer Jean-Michel Jarre.