BEIJING, February 24 – China on Friday called on Russia and Ukraine to hold peace talks as soon as possible, while insisting that nuclear weapons should not be used in their conflict.
Beijing’s foreign ministry made the comments in a document on the “political solution” of the crisis, timed to coincide with the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, though the United States quickly rejected the 12-point document.
The document follows accusations by the West that China is considering arming Russia, a claim Beijing has dismissed as “false information”.
“All parties should support Russia and Ukraine to work in the same direction and resume direct dialogue as quickly as possible,” China said in the document, posted on the website of the Foreign Ministry.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to use nuclear weapons in the conflict.
China has made clear its opposition not only to the use of nuclear weapons, but also to the threat to deploy them.
“Nuclear weapons must not be used and nuclear wars must not be waged. The threat or use of nuclear weapons must be opposed,” he said.
China also stressed the need to protect civilians.
“Parties to the conflict must strictly comply with international humanitarian law and avoid attacking civilians or civilian facilities,” it added.
The United States immediately criticized the newspaper, with President Joe Biden’s national security adviser saying the war “could end tomorrow if Russia stops attacking Ukraine and withdraws its forces.”
Jake Sullivan told CNN: “My first reaction is that it might stop at point one, which is to respect the sovereignty of all nations.
“Ukraine was not attacking Russia. NATO was not attacking Russia. The United States was not attacking Russia.
“Russia has already lost this war. Russia’s goals in the war were to wipe Ukraine off the map, to absorb it into Russia. They failed to do that and they are not in a position to do that.”
– Strategic allies –
China has sought to position itself as a neutral party in the conflict while maintaining close ties with its strategic ally Russia.
Chinese top diplomat Wang Yi met Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Wednesday.
A post-meeting reading published by China’s state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Wang as saying China was willing to “deepen political trust” and “strengthen strategic coordination” with Russia.
Following Wang’s visit, Moscow said Beijing had presented its views on approaches for a “political solution” to the conflict.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday that he had not seen any Chinese peace plans and wanted to meet with Beijing to discuss their proposal before evaluating it.
“I think it’s a very good fact in general that China started talking about Ukraine and sent some signals,” Zelensky said.
“We will draw some conclusions after seeing the details of what they offer… We would like to have a meeting with China.”
Friday’s document showed that Beijing “clearly sees the conflict in Ukraine as a product of what it says is a Cold War mentality and an outdated European security architecture,” said Manoj Kewalramani, a China expert at the Takshashila Institution in Bengaluru. India.
“The concerns reflected in this document revolve around escalation and spillover effects,” he told AFP, adding that Beijing would probably prefer peace talks to focus on “a new European security architecture rather than war per se”.
Since Russian tanks crossed the border into Ukraine, China has offered Putin diplomatic and financial support but refrained from overt military involvement or sending caches of lethal weapons.
Chinese state-controlled companies have sold non-lethal drones and other equipment to both Russia and Ukraine, but Moscow has been forced to turn to Iran for much-needed supplies such as unmanned aerial vehicles.
The United States has said that North Korea has also provided rockets and artillery shells.
Washington believes that could be about to change, as both the United States and NATO have expressed concern that China may be planning to supply Russia with weapons to shore up its war effort. Beijing has denied the claims.