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China and Ukraine’s top diplomats speak for first time in weeks

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is seen on a screen at the National People's Congress in Beijing on March 7. (Ryan Woo/Reuters)
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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had a rare call with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, on Monday. It was the first reported high-level conversation between the countries since March 1, according to Reuters, with pressure growing on Chinese leader Xi Jinping to reach out to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“China welcomes peace talks between Russia and Ukraine,” Wang said, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua. “China is willing to continue to play a constructive role in its own way.”

Wang said Tuesday that China would not watch “from a safe distance while sitting idle, or add fuel to the fire,” according to Xinhua.

Kuleba tweeted that he had spoken to Wang and was “grateful to my Chinese counterpart for solidarity with civilian victims.”

“We both share the conviction that ending the war against Ukraine serves common interests of peace, global food security, and international trade,” he added.

Since the war began, Beijing has tried to displease neither Russia nor the international coalition opposing President Vladimir Putin — a position that is increasingly untenable.

China’s close ties with Russia have become a sticking point for the West as it works to isolate Moscow over the war in Ukraine.

According to U.S. officials, Xi asked Putin to delay the invasion until the Beijing Olympics — which Putin attended — were over. Chinese officials have also helped propagate misinformation campaigns launched by the Kremlin about U.S.-supported biological labs in Ukraine, a claim used by the Kremlin as a reason to invade its neighbor. Analysts see the invasion of Ukraine as accelerating the military cooperation between China and Russia.

Following a summit between China and the European Union on Friday, pressure mounted on Xi to denounce the war, use his country’s economic ties with Russia to force a cease-fire and to not help Russia circumvent sanctions. A senior Chinese diplomat denied China was helping Russia skirt sanctions and added that Beijing will keep “normal” trade ties with Moscow.