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Ukraine: China’s Xi Jinping calls Volodymyr Zelenskyy for first time since Russian invasion | World News

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he has had a “long and meaningful” call with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

During the long-anticipated conversation between the two leaders, Xi appealed for Russia and Ukraine to restart peace talks and warned “there is no winner in a nuclear war”, according to state media.

The Chinese government also pledged to send a “special representative” to Kyiv for talks about a possible “political settlement”.

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Writing on Twitter following the discussion, Mr Zelenskyy said: “I had a long and meaningful phone call with President Xi Jinping.

“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.”

It comes two months after Beijing said it wanted to act as a peace mediator.

China has tried to appear neutral about the conflict, but has refused to condemn Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

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President Xi reportedly said China will send special representatives to Ukraine to hold talks with “all parties” on the “political settlement of the Ukrainian crisis”.

He said China is willing to continue to provide “humanitarian assistance” to Ukraine.

“The two sides should focus on the future, persist in viewing and planning bilateral relations from a long-term perspective, continue the tradition of mutual respect and sincerity between the two sides,” he said.

‘No winner in a nuclear war’

“Negotiation is the only viable way out,” Chinese state TV also quoted Xi as saying in a report about the call.

He added: “There is no winner in a nuclear war.

“All parties concerned should remain calm and restrained in dealing with the nuclear issue and truly look at the future and destiny of themselves and humanity as a whole and work together to manage the crisis.”

Before the February 2022 invasion, the Chinese president and Vladimir Putin issued a joint statement saying their governments had a “no limits friendship”.

China’s new role as peacemaker is unlikely to change much in reality

There have been rumours this call was going to happen around the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine.

It’s come to pass a little later than first expected, but it is no less significant.

For the Chinese it plays an important role in their claim to be a neutral peacemaker – remember China says it wants to broker peace and has never overtly condemned or condoned the war.

But the reality is China has provided finance technology and crucial diplomatic cover to Russia, and Xi has spoken to Putin numerous times since the invasion and even spent a three-day state visit to Moscow in March.

Many asked how China could possibly claim to be neutral in light of all this and have never even spoken to Zelenskyy; it now has the answer to those critiques. However, while this call allows China to continue to present itself as “the great statesman” – it is probably unlikely to change much in reality.

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But earlier this year, the Chinese government released a peace proposal and called for a ceasefire and talks.

The phone call between the two leaders was for China another step toward deeper involvement in resolving the ongoing war.

It comes after Mr Zelenskyy said in late March that he had not spoken with Xi since the war began and has repeatedly asked to meet with him – including after he visited Mr Putin in Moscow last month.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony before Russia - China talks in narrow format at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia March 21, 2023. Sputnik/Sergei Karpukhin/Pool via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Image:
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Moscow last month

Why China’s stance matters

An official for China’s foreign ministry added that President Xi’s call with President Zelenskyy “shows China’s objective, impartial position on international affairs”.

They said what the country has done to help resolve the crisis has been “above board”.

Sky’s Asia correspondent Helen-Ann Smith said the phone call between President Zelenskyy and President Xi is “really significant”.

She added: “China’s position on this war is really very important, it is presenting itself as a potential peacemaker.

“It wants to be seen as the power capable of brokering peace because it says it is one of the only mutual parties.

“The West sees that claim with a degree of scepticism. China has never condemned the invasion, but it has provided Russia with finance and technology and significant diplomatic cover.”

The phone call between the two leaders also comes after France President Emmanuel Macron urged Xi to “bring Russia back to its senses and bring everyone back to the negotiating table” over the Ukraine war earlier this month.

Mr Macron had been on a visit to Beijing with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who said she expects China to promote a just peace that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty.

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