(Beijing) Emmanuel Macron urged Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday to “bring Russia to its senses” vis-à-vis Ukraine and urged him not to deliver weapons to Moscow, during a meeting in Beijing that concluded with calls for peace talks.

“I know I can count on you to bring Russia to its senses and everyone to the negotiating table,” said the French head of state during a face-to-face meeting at the People’s Palace.

After all the ceremonial of a state visit – welcome to the troops near Tiananmen Square, national anthems, 21 cannon shots – the two leaders tried to display a certain convergence of views.

We need “a resumption of discussions as soon as possible to build a lasting peace”, estimated Emmanuel Macron at the end of the interview, while Xi Jinping pleaded for “a resumption of peace discussions as soon as possible”.

“Nuclear weapons cannot be used”, underlined the Chinese head of state who condemned any “attack against civilians” as well as any “use of biological and chemical weapons”.

“In this regard, everyone must be reminded of their duties, in particular Russia which announced the other day that it wanted to deploy such ‘nuclear’ weapons in Belarus, ‘which is not in accordance with the commitments made to you, to us. and international law,” added the French president, in statements to the press alongside Xi Jinping.

If he did not say it in front of the journalists, Emmanuel Macron also, according to a French diplomat, “pressed Xi Jinping not to deliver anything to Russia which serves his war against Ukraine”, at a time when the Westerners fear that China will supply arms to Moscow.

Also present for an ensuing trilateral meeting, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was even more explicit: “arming the aggressor would go against international law and would significantly harm our relationship,” she warned during a press conference in the evening.

Xi Jinping also said he was ready to call his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, as the latter hopes, we were also assured on the French side, even if he specified that he would do so when he himself will have chosen. A gesture of openness that remains to be confirmed but deemed “positive” by the European leader.

In recent weeks, international pressure has mounted on China to get involved in the search for peace.

On Thursday, however, the Kremlin ruled out the possibility of Chinese mediation to stop the fighting, because “the situation with Ukraine is complex, there are no prospects for a political settlement.”

If Beijing says it is officially neutral, Xi Jinping has never condemned the Russian invasion or even spoken on the phone, so far, with Mr. Zelensky.

Conversely, he recently went to Moscow to reaffirm his partnership with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the guise of an anti-Western front.

“China has clearly not budged. The goal is for China to do what it says, which is not the case at the moment, “reacted Thursday to AFP Antoine Bondaz, researcher at the French think tank Foundation for Strategic Research.

In this context, Emmanuel Macron has the ambition to “be a voice that unites Europe”, which is why he says he has invited the President of the European Commission to accompany him.

The tone of these two officials was consistent with their statements of the last few days.

The French president, who had judged the day before that Beijing could play a “major role” to “find a path to peace” in Ukraine, insisted on Thursday on the “importance” of “dialogue”, considering that we “arrange to get results from being respectful better than from lecturing.”

Ursula von der Leyen, for her part, issued a much harsher warning last week in Brussels: “How China continues to react to Putin’s war will be a determining factor in the future of relations between the ‘EU and China’.

This visit comes against the backdrop of new tensions around the question of Taiwan, just after the meeting, in the United States, between Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and the President of the American House of Representatives, the Republican Kevin McCarthy.

On Thursday, Beijing promised “firm and forceful measures” and the authorities of this island that China wants to bring back into its fold immediately announced that they had detected three warships and a Chinese anti-submarine warfare helicopter nearby.

President Macron’s trip, which aims to renew face-to-face dialogue after three years at a distance due to the health crisis, had an important economic component: he was accompanied by more than 50 French business leaders.

On Thursday, Franco-Chinese agreements in civil nuclear power or agriculture were concluded. And Airbus will double its aircraft production capacity in China, from 2025, by installing a second assembly line in Tianjin (north).

An agreement with the Forbidden City has also been announced by the Palace of Versailles for an exhibition in 2024 in China on exchanges between the two countries in the 18th century.

Emmanuel Macron will end his visit on Friday with a stopover in Canton, where he will have dinner one last time with Xi Jinping.