Macron says ‘counting’ on Xi to ‘bring Russia to its senses’

Kremlin sees no prospect of Chinese mediation on Ukraine

BEIJING: French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday he was counting on his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to “bring Russia to its senses” over its war in Ukraine. The French president, who arrived on Wednesday for a three-day state visit, has made clear he is seeking to dissuade China from supporting Russia’s invasion of its neighbor. “I know I can count on you to bring Russia to its senses and everyone to the negotiating table,” the French head of state told Xi during a bilateral meeting in Beijing.

And in a joint statement following those talks, the two leaders reaffirmed their call for peace talks between Kyiv and Moscow “as soon as possible”. The two sides also reaffirmed their opposition to the use of nuclear weapons during the conflict. To coincide with their meeting, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV released a report in which Xi hailed China’s “positive and steady” ties with France as the world undergoes “profound historical changes”.

‘Major role’ Macron has said during his trip that Beijing can play a “major role” in finding a path to peace in the conflict and welcomed China’s “willingness to commit to a resolution”. His visit to China—his first since 2019 — comes as Western pressure mounts on Beijing to help push for peace in Ukraine. Though Beijing is officially neutral, Xi has never condemned the Russian invasion. While he recently went to Moscow to reaffirm his alliance with Vladimir Putin—framed as an anti-Western front—Xi has not spoken on the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Macron, who is accompanied on his visit by European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, said he wants to “be a voice that unites Europe” over Ukraine, and that coming to China with her serves to “underline the consistency of this approach”. In a Thursday morning meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang at the Great Hall of the People, Macron stressed the importance of dialogue between China and France “in these troubled times”. “The ability to share a common analysis and build a common path is essential,” he said. And in a separate meeting with Li, von der Leyen told the premier that relations between the EU and China had grown “complex in recent years”.

“It is important that we discuss all aspects of this relationship together today,” she said, especially in the current “volatile geopolitical environment”. Following Macron’s talks with Xi, the pair will give statements to the press, followed by a meeting with von der Leyen and then a state dinner. Macron will travel to Guangzhou in southern China to meet students on Friday, taking with him a broad delegation of top politicians, business leaders and even celebrities, including composer Jean-Michel Jarre. Taiwan tensions The visit comes in the face of mounting Chinese pressure on Taiwan, with the island’s President Tsai Ing-wen meeting with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California on Wednesday.

Tsai hailed the talks, saying they showed the self-ruled island was “not isolated” on the international stage. Beijing baulks at any official contact between Taipei and the rest of the world, insisting there is only “one China”. Macron told journalists Wednesday he did not think his Chinese counterparts had “a desire to overreact” to the Tsai-McCarthy meeting. Beyond talks on Ukraine, Macron’s trip has an important economic component, with the French leader keen to firm up a crucial trade partnership.

Macron is accompanied by more than 50 French business leaders on his visit, including top bosses of Airbus, EDF and Veolia. Meanwhile, the Kremlin on Thursday said it saw no “prospect” for China to mediate the Ukraine conflict and said it had “no other way” than to press on with its offensive. The comments came as French President Emmanuel Macron was in Beijing to try to dissuade China from supporting Moscow’s campaign. “Undoubtedly, China has a very effective and commanding potential for mediation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “But the situation with Ukraine is complex, so far there are no prospects for a political settlement” he said.

“At the moment, there are no other ways for us aside from the continuation of the special military operation,” Peskov said, using the Kremlin term for its offensive. He was asked about China’s potential role of mediator after Macron told Chinese leader Xi Jinping he was counting on him to “bring Russia to its senses.” Xi visited Moscow last month, during which he and Russian President Vladimir Putin presented a united front against the West. – AFP

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