(Beijing) After the telephone conversation on Wednesday between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Volodymyr Zelensky, a first since the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the end of February 2022, what to expect from China and its calls for peace negotiations?

From Ukraine to the Middle East, the Asian giant is increasingly positioning itself as a mediator in conflict resolution.

Here are some questions about China’s diplomatic ambitions and intentions for Ukraine:

Xi Jinping told Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday that China’s “fundamental position” was “to promote a dialogue of peace”.

He promised to send a delegation to Ukraine and other unspecified countries to find “a political solution” to the conflict.

The delegation will be led by Li Hui, former vice-minister of foreign affairs and specialist in the ex-Soviet space, appointed special representative of the Chinese government for Eurasian affairs.

The choice of this diplomat may raise questions about his neutrality, because he was Chinese ambassador to Russia for 10 years (2009-2019) and therefore in regular contact with Vladimir Putin.

But Beijing insisted on Thursday on its “knowledge” of the case and on the “positive role” that it can thus play in this mediation.

China had already published its 12-point position on the Ukrainian crisis at the end of February, which it never presented as a “ peace plan ” and in which it urged in particular to respect the territorial integrity of all countries – under – heard Ukraine included.

The Xi-Zelensky phone call is a “positive step forward in that it has helped re-establish contact at the highest level, but it is still a first step”, judge Ja Ian Chong, professor at the national university from Singapore.

“Any substantial advance requires (on China’s part) an ability to make Russia promise, credibly, to show restraint,” he told AFP.

China says it has always maintained a dialogue with Ukraine at the diplomatic level.

The Xi-Zelensky appeal follows a series of moves by Beijing to mend its ties with Europe, including visits to China in April by French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. .

With this interview at the presidential level, China intends to “soften some of the harshest voices towards China within the European Union (EU),” writes sinologist Bill Bishop in his Sinocism newsletter.

And as a result, Beijing’s objective is also “ to create a certain distance between the EU and the United States ”, he believes.

Another hypothesis: the organization of the call could have been precipitated by the recent remarks of the Chinese ambassador to France, Lu Shaye. He had made ambiguous comments on television about the current sovereignty of the former Soviet republics – comments that Beijing then diplomatically repudiated.

China claims to have a neutral position in the conflict. It has no official alliance with Russia.

However, the two countries, because of their desire to stand together against the United States, have intensified their economic and diplomatic cooperation over the past decade.

True to its policy on the matter, Beijing calls for respect for state sovereignty, but has never publicly condemned Moscow for its invasion of Ukrainian territory.

Analysts say China is the strong partner in its relationship with Russia, which is now increasingly weakened diplomatically and isolated in the face of Western sanctions.

Following the Xi-Zelensky appeal, the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell hailed an “important first step”, while saying he hoped that China “plays a role in convincing Russia to stop its aggression”.

The White House saw it as “a good thing”, while claiming to ignore “if this can lead to an initiative, a proposal or a serious peace plan”.

Russia accused Kyiv of “undermining peace initiatives” by refusing dialogue with Moscow, while saying “taking note” of China’s willingness to “strive to put in place a negotiation process”.

The Kremlin clarified its thinking on Thursday through the voice of its spokesperson. “ We are ready to welcome anything that can (bring) closer to the end of the conflict in Ukraine , declared Dmitry Peskov, immediately adding: “And to lead to the achievement by Russia of the objectives it has set ‘is fixed ”.

If China succeeds in pacifying the situation in Ukraine, “it would demonstrate Beijing’s ability to play a constructive role globally and perhaps strengthen Xi Jinping’s status as a world leader,” Chong said.

China has presented itself for several years as a force for peace and intends to play a mediating role in conflicts abroad.

In March, for example, it was through China that Iran and Saudi Arabia sealed an agreement to restore their diplomatic ties, severed in 2016.

In recent days, Beijing has also underlined its willingness to facilitate talks between Israelis and Palestinians, which have stalled since 2014.