French President Emmanuel Macron urged Xi Jinping to use his influence to help restore peace to Ukraine, saying the Chinese leader could bring all sides together to discuss a way to end the Russian invasion.
“I know I can count on you to bring Russia back to reason and everybody to the negotiation table,” Macron told Xi during a meeting in Beijing on Thursday.
Xi has sought to rally international support for a vague blueprint to bring peace to Ukraine following Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s invasion last year. While the US and its allies have dismissed any cease-fire proposal that would allow Russia to keep territorial gains, some countries like France have welcomed China’s effort to find a diplomatic resolution.
While Macron doesn’t expect China to drop its close partnership with Russia, he does see room for potentially significant moves from Beijing, according to a senior French official. Macron was also expected to warn Xi against supplying Russia with weapons.
Xi said with respect to Ukraine, that China remains committed to encouraging peaceful negotiation and solving the issue with political measures. He also joined France in calling for attacks on civilians and children to end and to honor commitments to avoid the use of nuclear weapons.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who met Xi with Macron and bilaterally, told reporters after the talks that the European Union and China had agreed to convene high-level talks on trade and economic issues, as well as separately on digital issues, to address imbalances.
“These two dialogs should convene as soon as possible to make progress on all the different files and produce tangible results,” von der Leyen said. She reiterated a warning to China against supplying arms to Russia. “We all know arming the aggressor would be against international law and it would significantly harm our relationship,” von der Leyen said.
Von der Leyen also insisted on preserving stability, peace and the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. “Nobody should unilaterally change the status quo by force in this region,” she said. “The use of force to change the status quo is unacceptable and it is important that the tensions that might occur should be resolved through dialog.”
Xi said no one should expect China to compromise on the Taiwan issue during his meeting with von der Leyen, according to China Central Television. Xi said the Taiwain issue is the core of China’s core interests, and it would be “fantasies” for people to expect China to make compromises on this.
Macron spoke with US President Joe Biden earlier this week about the China visit, and “they also reiterated their steadfast support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression,” according to a White House statement.
China, whose diplomatic stance has boosted Putin’s effort to wage the war, is the only country that can be a game changer in the conflict given its influence on Moscow, according to the French official. Whatever China does from here could have a dramatic impact on the conflict.
Xi used a two-day visit to Moscow last month to underscore his warm ties with Putin, while the Russian leader praised China’s 12-point blueprint for ending the conflict.
The meeting with Macron has also provided Xi a chance to solidify ties with the French leader, particularly as China-US relations have been in a tailspin.
Beijing is looking to prevent Europe from joining the US’s hawkish stance, particularly on measures like export controls of key technologies that would hurt growth in the world’s second-biggest economy.