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Homechevron_rightOpinionchevron_rightEditorialchevron_rightWill the Xi-Zelensky...

Will the Xi-Zelensky phone call bear fruit?

Will the Xi-Zelensky phone call bear fruit?

The telephone conversation between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday predictably made headlines against the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine war. This is the first time since the invasion that the leaders of the two countries have been in contact. Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 22, 2022, China has not played an active role worth the name in the matter so far. China refrained from criticising Russia or endorsing the UN resolution calling for an end to the occupation. Although there may not be any immediate outcome from their discussion, the role China can play as a mediator cannot be ruled out. A general perception was also ripe during the Russian invasion that China was not very happy about the move. But China would fain go for a strained relationship between two socialist countries which would amount to supporting an US-led coalition. But now neither China's readout on the conversation nor Zelensky's tweets provide any indicative details or clues. Zelensky tweeted that he had a "long and meaningful" conversation with Xi. In China's readout , it has been stated that "as a responsible majority country", they would "neither watch the fire from the other side nor add fuel to the fire, let alone take advantage of the crisis to profit".

The point to note here is that the United States is actively supplying arms to the Ukrainian side in the war. While the White House spokesman John Kirby welcomed the phone call as "a good thing", he said that it was too early to know whether it would lead to "some sort of meaningful peace movement, or plan or proposal". As Russia has thus far shown no desire in backing off, a sudden Chinese-initiated ceasefire is only a remote possibility. On the other hand, there is Zelensky's statement that "there can be no peace at the expense of territorial compromises". Russia's occupation of Crimea is a significant problem for Ukraine. For Russia, there is also a new challenge since neighbouring Finland has joined NATO much against its wishes and in spite of its objections. Finland became the 31st member of the Nato security alliance in early April, doubling the length of member states' borders with Russia by adding 830 new miles to the already existing 754 miles. In addition, Russia claims that the vast territories it holds, including Crimea, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014, are Russian land and it wants to keep it. China's trade relations with Russia have been booming lately. Unlike Zelensky, Russian President Putin spoke to Xi five times by phone and met him twice in person. When Xi visited the Kremlin last month, he put forward a twelve-point peace proposal, but it was too vague and unacceptable to Zelensky. However, it should also be noted that China did not take a completely pro-Russian stance in the war.

In the meantime, the Chinese ambassador to France, Lu Shaye recently raised a controversy, saying that the Central Asian republics that broke away from Russia were essentially Russian states and had no validity under international law. China distanced itself from the remark while clarifying that it was a personal opinion. The question at hand is whether Xi's phone call could signal the beginning of a Ukrainian peace initiative. Only China has the locus standi to serve as a mediator at the moment. It is also significant that China's involvement recently succeeded in mending the strained ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Due to China's economic and trade dominance globally, nations are not quick to dismiss China, despite its close ties with Russia. Recent reports that Ukraine and Russia are gearing up for a more extensive spring conflict have weighed in against the prospects for peace. There were also predictions that Ukraine, which has received substantial quantity of weapons from the West, would have the upper hand even with the lack of air power like American F-16 fighter jets. It is fair to conclude that the conversation between the leaders of Ukraine and China, who have been silent in this scenario for a while, can be viewed as a favourable omen. China would never risk ending up with a bad reputation of being an unsuccessful mediator. And the crucial concern is how flexible Putin's peace terms will be. The addition and deletion of all of this determine the future of the telephone conversation that hit headlines.

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TAGS:USAChinarussiaputinXi jinpingZelenskyUkraine warUkraine warRussian invasionChinese mediationJohn KirbyJohn Kirby
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