Beijing/Moscow, March 17
Chinese President Xi Jinping will travel to Moscow on a state visit on Monday for crucial talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during which he is expected to pitch for peace talks to end the raging war in Ukraine.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Friday that at the invitation of President Putin, President Xi will pay a state visit to Russia from March 20 to 22.
Xi's visit will be seen as a powerful signal of Beijing's support for Putin in Western capitals, where leaders have grown increasingly wary of the two neighbouring nations' deepening partnership as war rages in Europe.
It will also be Xi's first foreign trip since securing an unprecedented third term as president at China's rubber-stamp Parliament last week.
Answering a spate of questions about whether Xi will promote peace talks between Russia and Ukraine to end the war, another Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told the media: "We always believe political dialogue is the only way to resolve conflicts and disputes." Xi's visit to Russia comes days after China clinched the Iran-Saudi Arabia peace deal, regarded as a diplomatic coup, aimed at expanding Beijing's role in world hotspots to end conflicts.
Beijing has not condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and continues to maintain close political, trade, and military ties with Moscow.
A simultaneous announcement made in Moscow by the Russian government about Xi's visit said the two leaders will discuss "pressing issues related to the future of relations of comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction between Russia and China." Putin and Xi are also expected to exchange views on ways to enhance Russian-Chinese cooperation on the international stage, Russia's state-run news agency Tass reported.
The Kremlin press service said "a number of important bilateral documents will be signed" during Xi's visit.
The announcement on Friday came a day after Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang spoke to his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, in which Qin called for peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv.
According to the Chinese foreign ministry, Qin expressed hoped that Ukraine and Russia would keep the door open for dialogue and negotiation, and not close the door to a political settlement.
On his talks with Qi, Kuleba said on Twitter that “we discussed the significance of the principle of territorial integrity. He said he underscored to Qin the importance of instituting Zelenskyy's “peace formula” for ending the aggression.
Referring to a 12-point position paper issued by China earlier to end the Ukraine conflict, Wang said the document fully lays out China's "fair and objective position" on the Ukraine issue.
"Fanning flames during the fight and imposing unilateral sanctions will make matters worse," he said, in a veiled dig at the US and EU's firm backing of Ukraine.
Asked whether Xi will speak to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy about the peace deal, Wang said: "China will uphold an objective and fair position on the Ukraine crisis and play a role in promoting talks for peace." "China's position is consistent and clear. We maintain communication with all parties," he said.
Wang also sought to play down US warnings to China not to supply weapons to Russia, saying China-Russia cooperation is "completely above board and shall be free from disruption or coercion from any third party." On the US and the EU criticism of China-Russia relations as an alliance-building a new world order, Wang said: "the China-Russia relationship is based on no alliance, no confrontation and no targeting of any third party." China is committed to the UN-centred international system and an international order underpinned by international law, he said.
On ending the Ukraine conflict, Wang said China will continue to play a constructive role to work out a political settlement of the crisis.
In recent years, President Xi and President Putin have maintained close exchanges, charting the course and providing guidance for the sustained and steady development of the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination, he said.
The relations had set a "new model" for major country relations, he said, adding that Xi will have in-depth exchanges with Putin on bilateral relations and major international and regional issues of mutual interest as well as jointly develop a blueprint for relations.
The visit would boost strategic cooperation and inject a new impetus in bilateral ties, he said.
The changes unseen in a century are moving at a fast pace and the world has entered a period of instability and turbulence, he said.
China and Russia are permanent members of the UN Security Council and major powers. The significance and influence of the relationship go far beyond the bilateral scope, he said.
"This will be a trip for friendship. It will boost bilateral cooperation across the board," he said.
In the position paper highlighting its stand on the Ukraine conflict issued last month, China has called for a ceasefire followed by peace talks to end the Ukraine war.
It, however, struck a nuanced stand of respecting Ukraine's sovereignty and legitimate security concerns of Moscow and expressed its firm opposition to the use of nuclear weapons.
Significant points of China's stand in its position paper were a call for "ceasing hostilities" and global support for the resumption of direct peace talks between Russia and Ukraine to end the war, respect for Ukraine's sovereignty and Moscow's legitimate security concerns.
Speaking at the parliament session on March 13, Xi sought a bigger role for Beijing in global affairs, days after brokering a Saudi Arabia-Iran deal.
On Wednesday, Xi proposed a Global Civilization Initiative (GCI) calling for respect for the diversity of civilisations at a world political parties conference organised by the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC).
The GCI is in addition to Global Development Initiative (GDI) and the Global Security Initiative (GSI) proposed by him under which China aims to expand Beijing's diplomatic role in the world.
On Xi's visit to Moscow, Feng Yujun, a Russian affairs specialist at Fudan University, said the resolution of Russia-Ukraine conflict is independent of China's will and capability, but depends on the will of the two countries.
Yang Shu, former director of the Institute for Central Asian Studies at Lanzhou University, said Qin's conversation with Kuleba signalled a shift towards a more proactive role in the conflict.
"[China's] promotion of a ceasefire and peace talks has become more positive and clearer,” he told Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.
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