Zelensky seeking 'direct talks' with China's Xi to help end Ukraine war

President Volodymyr Zelensky urged China to use its outsize political and economic influence over Russia. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (REUTERS, NYTIMES, BLOOMBERG) - Ukraine is seeking an opportunity to speak "directly" with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to help end its war with Russia, President Volodymyr Zelensky said, the South China Morning Post reported on Thursday (Aug 4).

In an interview with SCMP, the Ukrainian leader urged China to use its outsized political and economic influence over Russia to bring an end to the fighting.

"It's a very powerful state. It's a powerful economy… So (it) can politically, economically influence Russia. And China is (also a) permanent member of the UN Security Council," the report quoted Mr Zelensky as saying.

Amid heightened tensions surrounding Taiwan, Mr Zelensky on Wednesday (Aug 3) stressed the importance of Chinese neutrality over the war in his country as Russia finds itself increasingly isolated by the West.

“I would like China to join the unified world position on the tyranny of Russia against Ukraine,” Mr Zelensky said during a meeting with thousands of students organised by the Australian National University.

“As for now, China is balancing and indeed has neutrality. I will be honest: This neutrality is better than if China would join Russia.”

In a reflection of the delicacy of the moment, Ukrainian officials have been largely silent on the high-stakes visit this week of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.  The Kremlin on Tuesday said her visit to Taiwan “provokes the situation” over the island.

China's President Xi has refused to condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine and declared a “no limits” friendship with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin weeks before the invasion, making any call with Mr Zelensky potentially awkward.

Mr Xi and Mr Putin spoke within days of the war’s beginning, and the Russian leader called Mr Xi on the latter’s birthday in June.

Dialogue between Ukraine and China has been limited to lower level diplomatic exchanges, such as those between Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Ukrainian counterpart.

While Beijing has maintained it respects Ukraine’s right to sovereignty, it voted against a United Nations court order in March for Moscow to immediately suspend its military operations, refused to join a US-led sanctions campaign to isolate Mr Putin’s regime and framed Washington as the “culprit” of the conflict for encouraging the eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. 

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