BEIJING — In a rare phone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart Thursday, China’s foreign minister says Beijing is concerned about the year-old grinding conflict with Russia spinning out of control and urged talks on a political solution with Moscow.
Qin Gang told Dmytro Kuleba that China has “always upheld an objective and fair stance on the Ukraine issue, has committed itself to promoting peace and advancing negotiations and calls on the international community to create conditions for peace talks,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted on its website.
Kuleba later tweeted that he and Qin “discussed the significance of the principle of territorial integrity.”
“I underscored the importance of (Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's)’s Peace Formula for ending the aggression and restoring just peace in Ukraine,” wrote Kuleba, who spoke the same day with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
In 2022, China declared it had a “no-limits” friendship with Russia and has refused to condemn Moscow’s invasion — even while declaring that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries be respected. Beijing has also condemned Western sanctions and accusing NATO and the United States of provoking Russia into military action.
China and Ukraine have retained diplomatic ties but their top officials are believed to have had only sporadic contact.
Beijing has also accused the West of “fanning the flames” by providing Ukraine with weaponry to fend off the Russian invasion.
A Chinese peace proposal for Ukraine issued in February urged a cease-fire and peace talks, drawing praise from Russia but dismissals from the West. U.S. officials have repeatedly accused China of considering the provision of weapons to Russia for use in the war.
At a March 7 news conference, Qin insinuated America was undermining efforts for peace in Ukraine in order to extend the conflict for its own benefit, saying, “There seems to be an invisible hand pushing for the protraction and escalation of the conflict and using the Ukraine crisis to serve a certain geopolitical agenda.”
The Foreign Ministry made no mention of Qin repeating such remarks to Kuleba or of raising the peace proposal.
“We hope that all parties will remain calm, rational and restrained, resume peace talks as soon as possible, and push for a return to the track of political settlement,” Qin was quoted as saying.
“China will continue to play a constructive role toward reaching a cease-fire, ending warfare, mitigating the crisis and restoring peace,” he said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to visit Russia, possibly as early as next week, although neither side has confirmed dates.
China has also sought to play up its credentials as a good-faith independent mediator after hosting talks last week at which longtime antagonists Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to restore full diplomatic relations.