March 17 (UPI) — China’s President Xi Jinping plans to use a state visit to Moscow next week to push for peace in Ukraine and to get the warring parties talking, Beijing said Friday.
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin said the visit by Xi, who is due to arrive in the Russian capital for the two day visit Monday, “boils down to one sentence, which is to urge peace and promote talks.”
But the spokesman stressed that China would uphold its “objective and impartial position” on Ukraine and all other regional and international issues.
Next week’s visit follows Putin’s visit to Beijing for a summit with Xi ahead of the Winter Olympics in February last year at which the pair called on NATO to rule out future expansion — especially Ukraine — and abandon “the ideological approaches of the Cold War.”
Less than 3 weeks later, Russian forces invaded Ukraine, an act of aggression that China has declined to condemn.
News of Xi’s visit also comes amid reports that he may use the trip to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as part of Chinese efforts to broker peace in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
China put forward a detailed 12-point peace plan last month on the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion.
The moves are part of an effort by China to play a larger role on the world stage more in keeping with its status as an economic superpower.
Last week, Iran and Saudi Arabia announced they had agreed to resume relations between the two countries in a deal brokered by China.
A joint statement by the countries said that Iran, which supports Russia in its invasion of Ukraine, and Saudi Arabia, an ally of the United States, had agreed to resume diplomatic relations within two months and reopen their embassies and agencies in both countries.
The breakthrough came after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi visited China, followed by its Supreme National Security Council leader Ali Shamkhani traveling to Beijing on Feb. 6 for talks with the Saudis.
The United States has given a cautious welcome to developments saying it had been encouraging Xi to connect with Zelensky, both publicly and privately, “because we believe that China and President Xi himself should hear directly the Ukrainian perspective and not just the Russian perspective on this,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday.
“We hope there will be [talks]. That would be a good thing because it would potentially bring more balance and perspective to the way that the PRC is approaching this. And we hope it would continue to dissuade them from choosing to provide lethal assistance to Russia, which is obviously something that we have warned about.”
Sullivan said the agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia was a positive development and that having other countries like China promote de-escalation was “not fundamentally averse” to U.S. interests.