Saturday, May 25, 2024

China’s Xi backs Macron call for global Olympic truce

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PARIS –


China’s President Xi Jingping on Monday called for a global truce during the Olympic Games in Paris this summer after the French president and the head of the European Commission urged him to use his influence on Russia to end its war in Ukraine.


President Emmanuel Macron is hosting the Chinese leader for his first visit to Europe in five years and held talks with him and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Paris as they sought to show a united front on issues ranging from trade to Ukraine.


China has strengthened trade and military ties with Russia in recent years as the U.S. and its allies imposed sanctions on both countries, especially on Moscow since its 2022 invasion of Ukraine.


China-Russian trade hit a record of US$240.1 billion in 2023, up 26.3 per cent from a year earlier, Chinese customs data shows. Chinese shipments to Russia jumped 46.9 per cent in 2023 while imports from Russia rose 13 per cent.


“The world today is far from being calm. As member of the United Nations Security Council and as a responsible country, China urges with France for a truce in the world during the Paris Olympic games,” Xi said, speaking through an interpreter alongside Macron during a joint statement.


Suspending armed conflicts under an “Olympic truce” is a longstanding tradition, and Macron has said he would work towards achieving one when Paris hosts the Summer Games from July 26 to Aug. 11 and the Paralympic Games until the end of August.


French officials hope Xi’s endorsement is a sign that he could use his influence to persuade Russia to reach a truce when President Vladimir Putin travels to China later this month.


Their hope is that a small truce could open the window to broader diplomacy.


“We wanted to explain the impact of this conflict on Europe’s security and our determination to support Ukraine for as long as necessary,” Macron said, adding that Paris was not looking to change the regime in Moscow.


Macron said he hoped Putin’s visit to China would help assess the perspectives for peace.


Xi said he supported an international peace conference supported by Russia and Ukraine, appearing to be lukewarm on a peace conference organized by Switzerland on June 16, to which Moscow has not been invited.


“We are opposed to using this crisis to place the responsibilities on a third country and tarnish its image and incite a new Cold War,” he said.


“History has shown conflicts can only be resolved by negotiations.”


Fighting on Ukraine’s eastern front has worsened in recent weeks as Kyiv’s troops await crucial U.S. and European military aid to beat back a Russian advance. Russia has previously been lukewarm about a truce saying Ukraine might use it as an opportunity to regroup and rearm.


China support to Russia


Beyond the financial ties, Western powers have been especially worried that Beijing could provide weapons to Moscow and circumvent existing sanctions on materials that can be used for both civilian and military purposes.


Macron said he was encouraged by Xi’s commitments on the issue.


The two European leaders were keen to underline to Xi that despite Ukraine’s current difficulties they were determined to continue backing it and that Beijing needed to realize that the conflict was likely to last, with Western powers not ready to abandon Kyiv.


“We count on China to use all its influence on Russia to end Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine,” von der Leyen told reporters after a trilateral meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris.


Western powers have been trying for more than a year to persuade China to not give Russia military support.


French diplomatic sources said Xi had been clear that Beijing did not intend to supply weapons to Moscow and that it was ready to look into the issue of dual-use materials that enabled Russia’s war effort.


They said they would now have to see whether commitments turned into actions. The EU is currently discussing possible sanctions against some Chinese firms.


(Reporting by John Irish and Elizabeth Pineau; editing by Jonathan Oatis.)

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