Xi, Macron call for Russia-Ukraine peace talks

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French President Emmanuel Macron said in a speech in Beijing that China can play a “major role” in a path to peace in Ukraine and welcomed the country’s “willingness to commit to a resolution”.

French President Emmanuel Macron and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have both called for Russia-Ukraine peace talks to take place “as soon as possible”.

The pair, who held talks in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, also reaffirmed their opposition to the use of nuclear weapons during the conflict.

Macron began a series of meetings with Chinese leaders on a visit with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen that could set a course for the bloc’s future relations with China after years of strained ties.

Earlier, newly-appointed Premier Li Qiang greeted Macron at the Great Hall of the People, a cavernous building west of Tiananmen Square commonly used for ceremonial events.

After his arrival late on Wednesday, Macron said Europe must resist reducing trade and diplomatic ties with Beijing, which is at odds with the West over issues including Taiwan, sensitive technologies and China’s close ties with Russia.

Von der Leyen, on her first visit to China since taking office in 2019, has said Europe must “de-risk” its relations with Beijing, as China had shifted from an era of reform and opening to one of security and control.

During her tenure, Europe’s relations with China have soured, mainly because of tit-for-tat sanctions that stalled an investment pact in 2021 and Beijing’s refusal to condemn Russia over its offensive in Ukraine that has claimed thousands of lives since it started last year.

But emerging from years of sparse diplomatic activity as pandemic border controls largely shut the country off from the rest of the world, China is eager to ensure Europe does not follow what it sees as US-led efforts to contain its rise.

Both Macron and von der Leyen have said they want to persuade China to use its influence over Russia to bring peace in Ukraine, or at least deter Beijing from directly supporting Moscow in the conflict.

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