May 21, 2024

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Xi Jinping speaks with Ukrainian Zelensky for the first time since the Russian invasion

Xi Jinping speaks with Ukrainian Zelensky for the first time since the Russian invasion

(CNN) Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky On Wednesday, he spoke with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Moscow’s most important diplomatic partner, in the first phone call between the two leaders since the Russian invasion began.

“I had a long and meaningful phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping. I believe that this call, as well as the appointment of Ukraine’s ambassador to China, will give a strong impetus to the development of our bilateral relations,” Zelensky said.

Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, called the phone call an “important dialogue” in a telegram on Wednesday.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV also reported the call, during which Xi confirmed that an envoy would travel to Ukraine and other countries to help conduct “in-depth communication” with all parties for a political settlement of the Ukraine crisis.

In a briefing on Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry said its envoy to Ukraine will be Li Hui, the Chinese government’s special representative for Eurasian affairs. Li is the former Chinese ambassador to Russia, and held this position from 2009 to 2019.

The ministry did not provide further details about when Lee will make the trip and what other countries he will visit.

Beijing refused to condemn the Russian invasion or make any public call for Russia to withdraw its forces. Instead, its officials have repeatedly said that all countries’ “legitimate” security concerns should be taken into account, and have accused NATO and the United States of fueling the conflict.

Despite claims of neutrality and calls for peace talks, Beijing provided Moscow with much-needed diplomatic and economic support throughout the invasion.

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Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday that Moscow has noted China’s willingness to facilitate negotiations with Ukraine after the phone call between Xi and Zelensky.

“We note the willingness of the Chinese side to make efforts to establish the negotiation process,” Zakharova said during a press conference on Wednesday.

However, she said she also indicated that under current conditions negotiations are unlikely and blamed Kiev for rejecting Moscow’s overtures.

Diplomatic panic

Wednesday’s phone call marked the first time Xi spoke to Zelensky since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year. By comparison, Xi has spoken with Russian leader Vladimir Putin five times since the invasion — including a face-to-face meeting in the Kremlin when the Chinese leader visited Moscow last month and another in-person meeting at a regional summit in Central Asia last month. September.

Reports of ongoing discussions between China and Ukraine to arrange an invitation for their leaders first emerged in March, in the run-up to Xi’s state visit to Russia.

The efforts, which were widely reported at the time, were seen by analysts as part of China’s attempt to portray itself as a potential peacemaker in the conflict. claimed neutrality.

But the call did not materialize for weeks after Xi and Putin met in Moscow and made sweeping assurances of their alignment across a range of issues — including a shared mistrust of the United States.

After a trip to Beijing, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters earlier this month that Xi had confirmed his willingness to speak with Zelensky “when the conditions and time are right.”

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Xi’s call with Zelensky comes days after China’s top diplomat in Paris sparked outrage in Europe by questioning the sovereignty of the former Soviet republics, in comments that could undermine China’s efforts to be seen as a potential mediator between Russia and Ukraine.

The remarks of China’s ambassador to France Lu Chai, who said during a television interview last weekend that the countries of the former Soviet Union do not have an “effective position in international law,” caused diplomatic panic, especially in the Baltic states, with Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia summoning Chinese representatives to request illustration.

Officials including from Ukraine, Moldova, France and the European Union responded to criticism of Low’s comments.

China later distanced itself from Lu’s remarks, saying he was expressing a personal opinion rather than an official policy.

CNN asked Yu Jun, a Chinese foreign ministry official, if the timing of the Xi-Zelinsky phone call had anything to do with the backlash. “China issued an official response to the remarks of the Chinese ambassador to France,” he said. “I have been very clear about China’s position (on the Ukraine issue),” he added.

The last publicly reported phone call between Xi and Zelensky was on January 4, 2022, weeks before the invasion, during which the two leaders exchanged congratulatory messages for the 30th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations.

Ulyana Pavlova contributed to this report.