(Brussels) China must dialogue “ directly ” with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky if it wants its peace plan to be taken seriously, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday.

Russian Head of State Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping met in Moscow on Tuesday for new discussions devoted to the conflict in Ukraine and the strengthening of “strategic” relations between their two countries against the West.

Mr Putin said he was ready to discuss a Chinese initiative to end this conflict, based on a document published last month by Beijing and calling in particular for peace negotiations.

“ It is up to Ukraine to decide what are the acceptable conditions for any peaceful solution ”, recalled Jens Stoltenberg during a press briefing at the headquarters of the Atlantic Alliance in Brussels for the presentation of the activity report of NATO in 2022.

“China must understand Ukraine’s point of view and engage directly with President Zelensky,” he said.

“Any peace solution for Ukraine must be based on respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine,” he insisted.

“A ceasefire or any solution that does not respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity will only be a way to freeze the war and allow Russia to rebuild its forces and attack at new. It will not be a just and lasting peace,” he warned.

Jens Stoltenberg also once again urged Beijing not to supply arms to Russia.

“We have no evidence that China is supplying weapons to Russia,” he recalled.

“China must not provide lethal aid to Russia. That would be supporting an illegal war, prolonging the war and supporting the illegal invasion of Ukraine. This is something that China should not do,” he pleaded.

NATO and China are not partners. However, the Atlantic Alliance does not consider this country as an adversary, it is specified in the report published on Tuesday.

“ The new strategic concept adopted by the Alliance at the Madrid summit in June 2022 identifies Russia as the most important threat to our security, along with terrorism, and makes it clear that China challenges our interests, our security and our values ” , said Jens Stoltenberg again.

NATO countries must “do more” to devote at least 2% of their GDP to defense spending and a new commitment will have to be set at the Vilnius summit in July, Alliance Secretary General Jens announced on Tuesday. Stoltenberg.

Eleven Member States had reached or exceeded this target in 2020. They were eight in 2021 and are down to seven in 2022. “ We expected more, but GDP increased more than expected for some allies ”, explained Jens Stoltenberg during the presentation of NATO’s annual report.

The seven countries that remained members of the 2% club last year are Greece (3.46%), the United States (3.46%), Lithuania (2.47%), Poland (2.42 %), the United Kingdom (2.16%) and Estonia (2.12%). With the exception of Lithuania and Poland, the military budgets of these countries are nevertheless down compared to 2021.

Croatia (1.91%) and France (1.89%) are close to 2%, but their defense spending has fallen compared to 2021.

Germany remains at 1.49% despite the commitment to create a special fund of 100 billion euros dedicated to the Bundeswehr. Belgium and Denmark also announced in 2022 an increase in their military spending after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, but remain below 1.5% of their GDP.

NATO countries committed in 2014, after the annexation of Crimea by Russia, to increase their defense spending to 2% of their GDP in 2024.

“Many” member states of the organization “have announced significant increases in their defense spending since the invasion of Russia. These promises must now come to fruition, because defense spending has underpinned everything we have done since 2014,” argued Jens Stoltenberg.

“We are moving in the right direction, but not as fast as the dangerous world we live in requires,” he insisted.

“It is clear that we need to do more and do it faster. At our summit in Vilnius in July, I expect allies to agree on a new, more ambitious commitment and for the 2% of GDP target to be a minimum, a threshold to invest in our defence,” said- he said.