According to media reports, visiting French President Emmanuel Macron has requested his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to “bring Russia to its senses” in an effort to stop the current conflict in Ukraine.
Macron landed in Beijing on Wednesday for his state visit, with high hopes for a breakthrough in working with the Asian powerhouse to find ways to stop the war, according to CNN.
While Ukraine is at the top of the agenda, Macron’s trip also has a major economic component, with the President accompanied by a group of 50 business executives, some of whom are expected to finalise or even sign new deals during the trip.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, joins him.
Macron and Xi met behind closed doors on Thursday, which officials from both countries described as “frank” and “friendly,” according to the BBC.
Later in the day, the two Presidents joint addressed the media at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
In his opening statement, Macron told Xi: “I know I can count on you to bring Russia to its senses, and bring everyone back to the negotiating table.”
He went on to say Russia had “put an end to decades of peace in Europe” and that finding a “lasting peace” that respected internationally recognised borders was “an important issue for China, as much as it is for France and for Europe”.
“We can’t have a safe and stable Europe,” as long as Ukraine remained occupied, Macron said, adding that it was “unacceptable” that a member of the UN Security Council had violated the organisation’s charter.
On his part, the Chinese leader emphasised his country’s position on the Ukraine issue which is “consistent and clear”, Xinhua news agency reported.
“It is essentially about facilitating peace talks and political settlement. There is no panacea for defusing the crisis.”
Xi said it requires all parties to do their share and create conditions for ceasefire and peace talks through a buildup of trust and added “China supports Europe in playing its role in the political settlement of the crisis”.
He also said that peace talks should resume as soon as possible and urged the international community to “stay rational, exercise restraint, and avoid taking actions that might cause the crisis to further deteriorate or even spiral out of control”.
The Chinese leader reiterated that “nuclear weapons must not be used and nuclear wars must not be fought”, as well as opposed the “use of biological weapons under any circumstances”.
“China is ready to stay in touch with France and play a constructive role in the political settlement of the crisis,” the President added.
Since the conflict began in February 2022, China has professed neutrality and positioned itself as a peace broker.
It has also produced its own peace plan, which Western governments have usually dismissed as siding too heavily with Russia.
But, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has indicated interest and urged for direct meetings with Xi, who has yet to reply publicly.
Macron’s visit, four years after his last, is the most politically significant engagement Xi has had with a Western leader since meeting US President Joe Biden at the G20 conference in Bali last November.
Macron’s state visit will continue on Friday with a trip to Guangzhou, China’s southern business metropolis, where he is due to dine with Xi.