China hopes Russia and Ukraine will hold peace talks, a senior Chinese diplomat says

BEIJING, March 16 (Reuters) – China is concerned about an escalation of the war in Ukraine and hopes that Moscow and Kiev will hold peace talks, senior Chinese diplomat Qin Gang told his Ukrainian counterpart in a telephone conversation on Thursday.

China, which has refrained from condemning Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, has urged both sides to agree to a gradual de-escalation leading to a comprehensive ceasefire in its 12-point document on the “Political Solution of the Ukraine Crisis”.

The plan, which received lukewarm reception on both sides, called for protection of civilians and respect for each other’s sovereignty.

“China hopes that all sides remain calm, rational and restrained and resume peace talks as soon as possible,” Qin told Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, according to a statement from China’s foreign ministry.

Qin added that China hopes Ukraine and Russia will not close the door to a political solution, no matter how difficult and challenging the situation is, the ministry said.

Kuleba said that he and Qin discussed the “meaning of the principle of territorial integrity” during the conversation.

“I underlined the importance of (Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s) peace formula for ending the aggression and restoring a just peace in Ukraine,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

Ukraine has said any plan to end the conflict must include the withdrawal of Russian troops to Ukraine’s borders in 1991, the year the Soviet Union was dissolved.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit Russia’s Vladimir Putin next week and hold a virtual meeting with Zelenskiy.

Analysts say it will be difficult for China to bring Russia and Ukraine to the negotiating table, but some pointed out that Xi could act as a “back channel” to gain momentum towards talks.

Reporting by Hong Kong newsroom; Edited by Angus MacSwan and Nick Macfie

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.

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