French President Emmanuel Macron, who is visiting Beijing, on Thursday urged Chinese leader Xi Jinping to use his influence with Russian President Vladimir Putin to help end the war in Ukraine.
“I know that I can count on you to bring Russia to its senses and bring everyone back to the negotiating table,” Macron told Xi Jinping. In response, the head of China expressed the hope that the parties will be able to hold peace talks as soon as possible. China and France have "both the ability and the responsibility" to safeguard world peace, he said.
According to Macron, the current crisis threatens that the major world powers will be divided into warring blocs. On Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov once again said that the situation in Ukraine "shows no prospects for a peaceful settlement."
Macron arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, and on Wednesday he was joined by the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, whom he invited to take part in talks with the Chinese leadership. Macron's trip to China is being watched especially closely as relations between Beijing and Western countries have steadily deteriorated over the past few years.
In addition, Macron seeks to strengthen trade ties with China: he brought with him a large delegation of business representatives. On Thursday afternoon, Macron watched a lavish military parade in Beijing before holding talks with Xi Jinping behind closed doors. Chinese and French officials described the conversation as "frank" and "friendly".
At a press conference after the talks, Xi Jinping spoke about the war in Ukraine and said that "China stands for peace talks and seeks a political solution" to the conflict. He also called on the international community to show "rational restraint" in relation to what is happening.
Later, at a separate press conference, the head of the European Commission, von der Leyen, made some tougher statements. Among other things, she said that if Beijing supplies weapons to Russia, this will be a violation of international law and will "significantly damage" relations between the EU and China. She expressed her hope that "China will play a role that will help establish a just world." A "just world" is what Ukraine's Western allies call a scenario for the end of the war, in which Kyiv regains control over its occupied territories. Von der Leyen also said she fully supports Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky's peace plan, which calls for a complete withdrawal of Russian troops.
Earlier, Zelensky said that he would like to hold direct talks with Xi Jinping, but the Chinese leader has not yet officially responded to this proposal. According to von der Leyen, during her conversation with Xi Jinping, he "confirmed his readiness" to talk with Zelensky "when the conditions and time are right for this."
On Thursday evening, the Chinese authorities are hosting a gala dinner in Macron's honor, and on Friday, the leaders of France and China will travel to the southern city of Guangzhou, where they will again dine together, but this time in a private format.