China’s top envoy will begin a tour of Ukraine, Russia and other European cities on Monday as part of a trip Beijing says is aimed at discussing a “political settlement” of the Ukraine crisis.
Li Hui, China’s special representative for Eurasian affairs and a former ambassador to Russia, will also visit Poland, France and Germany on a multi-day trip, the Foreign Ministry said on Friday, without providing a detailed schedule.
“The visit … is a testament to China’s efforts to promote peace talks and fully demonstrates China’s firm commitment to peace,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing.
He is the highest ranking Chinese official to visit Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022, and his trip could coincide with the beginnings of Ukraine’s long-awaited counter-offensive to retake territory seized by Russia.
The visit comes weeks after Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke by phone with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky in late April, the first meeting between the two leaders since the war began.
Zelensky called the call “long and meaningful” on Twitter, while Xi said China would focus on promoting peace, although Beijing’s proposals to end the conflict have been met with some skepticism in the West given its ties to Russia.
But several European leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, have urged Xi to talk to Zelensky and play a more active role in curbing Moscow’s actions during a series of visits to the Chinese capital since March.
Since February, Beijing has strongly promoted the twelve-point proposal for a political settlement of the Ukrainian crisis.
But the plan, launched on the first anniversary of the Russian invasion, was largely a reiteration of China’s previous lines to the war. He urged both sides to agree to gradual de-escalation and warned against the use of nuclear weapons.
Kiev has ruled out the idea of any territorial concessions to Russia, saying it wants every centimeter of its land back. Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014 and since last year claims to have annexed four other Ukrainian regions that Moscow now calls Russian land.
During the war, China refrained from condemning its strategic ally Moscow or referring to its actions as an “invasion”, leading to criticism from European countries and the United States, which questioned China’s credibility as a potential mediator in the conflict.
Any message Li delivers will be closely scrutinized given concerns among Western nations about Xi’s meeting with his “dear friend” Russian President Vladimir Putin in March and the two countries’ commitment to a “no-holds-barred” partnership less than three weeks before invasion. , which Moscow called a “special military operation”.
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