(Canton, China) Xi Jinping pledged Friday to Emmanuel Macron to “support any effort to restore peace in Ukraine” attacked by Russia, a conflict that the Chinese president still refuses to condemn.
At the end of a three-day state visit to China, the French president and Xi Jinping made a minimal joint statement on the war in Ukraine. The text does not mention Russia and does not call for the departure of troops from Ukraine from Moscow.
The joint statement also does not condemn Vladimir Putin’s military intervention.
On the other hand, the two countries “oppose armed attacks against nuclear power plants and other peaceful nuclear installations” and support the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) “to ensure the security of the Zaporizhia power plant”.
“The objective was not to get China to switch from one camp to the other, the objective was for China to contribute usefully to clearly defined objectives”, defended the Elysée.
According to Paris, Xi Jinping said he was ready to work with France “to create the conditions for negotiations” between Moscow and Kyiv. “For us, the objective is fulfilled”, we are assured on the French side, even if we “will have to see” how these commitments will materialize.
The “parameters” of this initiative still remain to be “defined”, we concede on the French side.
The day before, Messrs. Macron and Xi had both called for peace talks as soon as possible and rejected any recourse to nuclear weapons.
But if, as we are assured on the French side, Xi Jinping has said he is ready to call his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, the Chinese president has made it clear that he will do so when he himself has chosen.
This commitment, which does not appear in any Chinese report, was however deemed “positive” by the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen Thursday in Beijing.
Friday in Canton, Emmanuel Macron denounced to Chinese students this war started by Russia.
The French president’s trip to this southern Chinese city concludes a three-day state visit which first took him to Beijing and aimed to renew face-to-face ties after three years of relations in distance due to COVID-19.
Mr. Macron visited Sun Yat-sen University where the crowd in attendance gave him a warm welcome, with many people waving their cellphones in hopes of a selfie with him.
The Head of State, who made the conflict in Ukraine the main subject of his visit to China, mentioned it from the first minutes in front of a thousand students: “This war is a clear violation of our international law,” he said.
“It’s a country that decides to colonize its neighbour, not to respect the rules, to redeploy arms, to invade it,” he insisted, about Russia.
The head of Russian diplomacy Sergei Lavrov also threatened Friday in Ankara to suspend the agreement on Ukrainian grain exports if sales of Russian agricultural products remain hampered.
Mr. Lavrov was speaking to the press following a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Cavusoglu, whose country was heavily invested in the conclusion of this agreement last summer.
“If there is no progress in removing barriers to Russian fertilizer and grain exports, then we will wonder if this deal is necessary,” Lavrov said.
The agreement, which allows Ukrainian grain to be exported via the Black Sea despite the war, was extended on March 19.
The Russian minister was then received by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the presidential palace, greeted by a long handshake by the head of state campaigning for his re-election on May 14. No details have leaked out of the discussions.
Mr Erdogan and Vladimir Putin have met four times in the past year and speak regularly by phone, most recently on March 25.
But Moscow offered 60 days rather than the initially agreed tacit extension of 120 days, insisting on honoring the other side of the deal, which concerns its own fertilizer exports.
Theoretically, these products essential to global agriculture do not fall under the Western sanctions imposed on Moscow since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. But they are in fact hindered by the banks.
According to the Turkish Minister, “The US and UK have taken steps in terms of payment and insurance, but problems persist. Some banks have failed to do so.”
Similarly, Cavusoglu continued, “steps have been taken to re-ship Russian ammonia and fertilizers from Western countries to African countries, but the problem is not solved.”
In addition, Mr. Lavrov denounced the inequality of Ukrainian exports between rich and poor countries.
According to the Joint Coordination Center responsible for overseeing the international agreement, 56% of exports went to developing countries, and 5.7% went to the least developed countries, which total more than 12% of the world’s population.
Russia and Turkey act in concert on several international issues and Moscow had argued before Mr. Lavrov’s arrival the need to “synchronize clocks” with Ankara.
Turkey has managed since the beginning of the conflict to maintain relations with Ukraine and Russia and Mr. Cavusoglu on Friday expressed “his concern [about] an escalation of the conflict in the spring”.
But, Mr. Lavrov warned, peace talks on Ukraine will only be possible if they aim to establish a “new world order” without American domination.
“Negotiations can only take place on the basis of taking Russian interests into account,” he insisted. “These are the principles on which the new world order will be founded.”
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has conditioned any meeting with Mr. Erdogan on the withdrawal of Turkish forces present in northern Syria to prevent Kurdish attacks.
But President Erdogan’s spokesman and diplomatic adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, announced on Wednesday an upcoming meeting in Moscow of the two countries’ foreign and defense ministers, plus those of Russia and Iran.
This will take place “in the coming days” with the intelligence chiefs of the four countries, Mr. Kalin said: the latter also met with President Putin on Thursday in Moscow, the Kremlin announced.
“The dialogue must continue. It would be beneficial if the consultations continue in the same way,” the Turkish minister confirmed on Friday.