Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky by phone on Wednesday, April 26, Beijing and Kyiv said, the first call between the two leaders since the start of Russia’s invasion.
China says it is neutral in the Ukraine conflict even though Xi has never condemned the Russian invasion, but the Chinese leader has come under increased pressure from Western nations to step in and mediate between Ukraine and Russia.
A 12-point “position paper” published by China in February was seen by many Western governments as bias in favor of Russia, and a friendly Moscow visit in March by Xi to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin led to widespread criticism as Xi didn’t talk about efforts to end the war.
Zelensky has said repeatedly he would be open to talks with his Chinese counterpart, and Wednesday’s telephone call “was initiated by the Ukrainian side”, Yu Jun from China’s foreign ministry told a press conference.
“I had a long and meaningful phone call with President Xi Jinping,” Zelensky said on Twitter.
“I believe that this call, as well as the appointment of Ukraine’s ambassador to China, will give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations,” he wrote
Zelensky’s spokesman Sergiy Nykyforov said on Facebook that the two leaders had “an almost one-hour-long telephone conversation”.
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported that during the call which was initiated by Kyiv, Xi told Zelensky that “talks and negotiation” were the “only way out” of the war.
“On the issue of the Ukraine crisis, China has always stood on the side of peace and its core position is to promote peace talks,” CCTV reported Xi as saying.
According to a readout of the call, Xi said China “will neither watch the fire from the other side, nor add fuel to the fire, let alone take advantage of the crisis to profit”.
“When dealing with the nuclear issue, all parties concerned should remain calm and restrained, truly focus on the future and destiny of themselves and all mankind, and jointly manage and control the crisis,” Xi said.
China also said it would send a delegation and a “special representative” of its government to Ukraine with the aim of finding a “political settlement” to the conflict.
February’s 12-point peace paper called for a “political settlement” to the crisis and portrayed China as a neutral party, urging the two sides to enter into peace negotiations.
Its first point was that “the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries must be effectively upheld”.
In the paper, Beijing called on Russia and Ukraine to resume peace talks, stating that “dialogue and negotiation are the only viable solution”.
“The international community should stay committed to the right approach of promoting talks for peace, help parties to the conflict open the door to a political settlement as soon as possible, and create conditions and platforms for the resumption of negotiation,” the paper read.