Putin to Xi: We will discuss your plan to end the war in Ukraine

March 20, 2023
Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will be treated to a seven-course meal in Moscow. — courtesy AFP
Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will be treated to a seven-course meal in Moscow. — courtesy AFP

MOSCOW — Vladimir Putin has said he will discuss Xi Jinping’s 12-point plan to “settle the acute crisis in Ukraine”, during a highly anticipated visit to Moscow by the Chinese president.

“We’re always open for [a] negotiation process,” Putin said, as the leaders called each other “dear friend”.

China released a plan to end the war last month — it includes “ceasing hostilities” and resuming peace talks. But on Friday the US warned the peace plan could be a “stalling tactic”.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “The world should not be fooled by any tactical move by Russia, supported by China or any other country, to freeze the war on its own terms.”

China’s plan did not specifically say that Russia must withdraw from Ukraine — which Ukraine has insisted as a precondition for any talks.

Instead, it talked of “respecting the sovereignty of all countries”, adding that “all parties must stay rational and exercise restraint” and “gradually de-escalate the situation”.

The plan also condemned the usage of “unilateral sanctions” — seen as a veiled criticism of Ukraine’s allies in the West.

On Monday, a military band gave Xi a warm welcome to Moscow. Putin hailed China for “observing the principles of justice” and pushing for “undivided security for every country”.

In return, Xi told Putin: “Under your strong leadership, Russia has made great strides in its prosperous development. I am confident that the Russian people will continue to give you their firm support.”

Before Xi’s arrival, Putin wrote in China’s People’s Daily newspaper that the two nations would not be weakened by “aggressive” US policy.

Publicly, Ukrainian leaders have been emphasizing the common ground they have with China — respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity.

But privately, they have been lobbying for a meeting - or telephone call — between President Volodymyr Zelensky and Xi.

The fear in Kyiv is that China’s support for Russia — currently based around technology and trade — might become military, potentially including artillery shells.

“If China does move to openly supply weapons to Russia, it will in effect be taking part in the conflict on the side of the aggressor,” said Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council.

It is in Beijing’s interests to stabilize the relationship with Russia, with which it shares a 4,300km (2700 mile) border, said Dr. Yu Jie Senior, a research fellow on China at Chatham House.

Russia is a source of oil for Beijing’s huge economy, and is seen as a partner in standing up to the US.

Dr. Yu added that Xi had just scored a diplomatic victory in mediating between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which have now resumed diplomatic ties.

This could be a chance for him to explore the opportunity to mediate between Russia and Ukraine.

Xi will be treated to a seven-course meal including nelma fish from the Pechora River in northern Russia, a traditional Russian seafood soup and pancakes with quail.

Presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has indicated there will be a “detailed explanation” of Moscow’s actions in Ukraine over dinner. Russian and Chinese delegations will hold talks tomorrow — the main day of the visit.

Western leaders have been attempting since February to isolate Russia, following its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

But they have been unable to establish a global consensus, with China, India and many African reluctant to condemn Putin. — BBC

March 20, 2023
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