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Radio France Internationale
Radio France Internationale
Michael Fitzpatrick

Macron to visit China in early April, calls for Beijing pressure on Moscow

President Emmanuel Macron. © LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP

The French leader Emmanuel Macron on Saturday said he will visit China in early April. The president called on Beijing to help the countries in the western alliance put pressure on Russia to end the war in Ukraine.

Speaking in Paris on the day after China called for urgent peace talks and released Beijing's plan to end the war in Ukraine, Macron said peace was possible only if "the Russian aggression was halted, troops withdrawn and the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine and its people was respected".

"The fact that China is engaging in peace efforts is a good thing," the French leader said, asking Beijing "not to supply any arms to Russia".

He also sought Beijing's help to "exert pressure on Russia to ensure it never uses chemical or nuclear weapons and it stops this aggression prior to negotiations".

China's 12-point plan calls for a "political settlement" of the crisis. It has been greeted with scepticism by Western leaders but Ukraine and Russia have expressed cautious support.

Timed to coincide with the first anniversary of Russia's invasion, the paper urges all parties to "support Russia and Ukraine in working in the same direction and resuming direct dialogue as quickly as possible".

China warns against nuclear escalation

The Chinese proposition also makes clear Beijing's opposition to the use of nuclear weapons, and also to the threat of deploying them. This follows Russian President Vladimir Putin's warning that he was prepared to use Moscow's atomic arsenal in the conflict.

Russia has said it appreciates Beijing's efforts to settle the conflict but insisted any solution must recognise Kremlin control over four Ukrainian regions.

"We highly value the sincere desire of our Chinese friends to contribute to the settlement of the conflict in Ukraine through peaceful means," the foreign ministry said, but added any settlement must recognise "the new territorial realities".

Broad international scepticism

China's document was immediately met by scepticism from Ukraine's allies, with Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg saying Beijing "doesn't have much credibility because they have not been able to condemn the illegal invasion of Ukraine".

"Putin is applauding it, so how could it be any good?" US President Joe Biden said on Friday.

At the United Nations, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres's spokesman said "I think the call on the need to avoid the use of nuclear weapons is particularly important."

Russian ally Kazakhstan expressed support on Saturday for the Chinese initiative.

Kazakhstan's foreign ministry said it welcomed China's position "on the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis".

In a statement, the ministry said the proposal "deserves support as contributing to the cessation of bloodshed".

Kazakhstan, which shares a 7,500 kilometre border with Russia, also emphasised the importance of "territorial integrity" in China's plan.

Kazakhstan is part of various military and economic alliances with Russia but has refused to support the invasion of Ukraine or recognise the Kremlin's annexation of four Ukrainian regions.

The country has, however, abstained or voted against UN resolutions condemning Russia.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is to visit Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan next week before going to New Delhi for a G20 foreign ministers' meeting, also due to be attended by Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.

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