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China Urges Europe to Support Its Blueprint for Talks on Ukraine

(Bloomberg) -- China’s top diplomat Wang Yi urged Europe to play a role in supporting peace talks for Russia’s war in Ukraine, though the US has warned Beijing’s proposals would effectively freeze the Kremlin’s territorial gains.

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“China looks forward to France and other European countries to also play their due role,” Wang told Emmanuel Bonne, a diplomatic advisor to the French president, in a phone call Thursday.

“A cease-fire, stopping the war, resuming peace talks and a political settlement of the crisis should become the strategic consensus between China and Europe,” Wang said, according to a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

The call came just after President Xi Jinping capped off a state visit to Russia, where President Vladimir Putin pledged even closer ties and hailed Beijing’s proposals for ending the fighting. Xi has sought to reboot his image as a global statesman, with China helping to secure a deal to improve ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia and announcing its own plan for a cease-fire between Russia and Ukraine.

Read more: US Fears a War-Weary World May Embrace China’s Ukraine Peace Bid

That proposal would freeze Russian troops in place on Ukrainian territory, a non-starter for Kyiv. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has vowed to continue fighting until they depart. Moscow has shown no sign of stopping its attacks, and continues to claim portions of eastern Ukraine and Crimea as its territory after referendums widely denounced as illegal on annexation.

The US and its allies have rejected the Chinese initiative as biased toward Russia. However, US officials worry that dismissing China’s proposal outright could send a message that Washington isn’t interested in peace.

Many countries are “playing more of a hedging game because anything that might move toward peace in Ukraine is something that everyone is willing to listen and give time to no matter which quarter it comes from,” said Raffaello Pantucci, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

“There is a risk, however, that it’s attractive diplomatic noise, as a cease-fire, without any meaningful movement behind it is just a freezing of the conflict in its current state.”

Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, announced he would travel next week to China to speak to Xi about the proposal to negotiate a peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will begin a five-day visit to China on Sunday, and French President Emmanuel Macron said he would visit in early April to push Beijing to help end Russia’s war in Ukraine.

(Updates with analyst comment.)

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