As his country's bitter war with Russia reached the one year-mark, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he wanted to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to discuss Beijing's proposals for ending the conflict.
“China historically respects our territorial integrity, and it should therefore do everything for Russia to leave the territory of Ukraine,” Zelenskyy told a news conference Friday.
He said that he planned to meet with Xi and believed this would “benefit our countries and security in the world.”
His comments came after China put forward a 12-point peace plan that called for both sides to agree to a gradual de-escalation, keep nuclear facilities safe, establish humanitarian corridors and prevent attacks on civilian populations.
“Conflict and war benefit no one. All parties must stay rational and exercise restraint, avoid fanning the flames and aggravating tensions, and prevent the crisis from deteriorating further or even spiraling out of control,” the plan said.
It said that “dialogue and negotiation”were the only viable solution. Although it offered no details on what form potential talks could take, it said that China would play a “constructive role” in facilitating negotiations.
Zelenskyy said his main goal was ensuring that China had not supplied weapons to Russia, alluding to U.S. allegations last week that China may be providing Russia with nonlethal military assistance, and that it may even be considering sending lethal aid. Beijing has denied this.
He did not say if a meeting with Xi had been arranged or give any indication of when it might take place.
But less than 24 hours after his speech, China's Foreign Ministry announced that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko would visit Beijing later this month.
A close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Lukashenko, who is often referred to as “Europe’s last dictator,” is beholden to Putin for shoring him up in 2020 after mass protests broke out against a presidential election that the Belarus opposition and Western governments accused the veteran leader of rigging.
French President Emmanuel Macron also said Saturday that he would visit China in early April, in part to seek Beijing's help with ending the war.
Macron has repeatedly called for negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, and is one of the only European Union leaders to have kept up contact with Putin since the war began.
President Joe Biden and European leaders appeared skeptical about Beijing's proposals.
Describing the idea as “just not rational,” Biden told ABC News on Friday that he had “seen nothing in the plan that would indicate that there is something that would be beneficial to anyone other than Russia.”
Speaking at a news conference in Estonia on Friday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also said that China did not “have much credibility because they have not been able to condemn the illegal invasion of Ukraine.”
He added that Xi signed an agreement on a “limitless” partnership between China and Russia days before the invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
At the same news conference European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that European leaders would look at the Chinese principles for peace “against the backdrop that China has already taken sides.”