EU asks China to rethink its relations with Russia » Capital News


Brussels (AFP), April 1 – The EU is holding a virtual summit with China on Friday amid growing concern over Beijing’s growing closeness to Moscow and its reluctance to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will hold the video conference with European leaders Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen, continuing an annual exercise that was skipped last year as tensions simmered.

“The meeting will focus on the role we urge China to play, to stand on the side of unambiguous principles of international law and exert all necessary influence and pressure on Russia,” the minister said. French for European Affairs Clément Beaune, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU.

“That was not the original purpose of the summit, but it necessarily became one,” Beaune said, although he insisted that other topics such as climate and trade “won’t go away. not”.

The EU-China summit is generally an effort to deepen business ties. But the exchange of sanctions last year over the fate of China’s Uyghur minority, followed by Beijing’s trade coercion on EU member Lithuania, Taiwan, marred preparations for the meeting.

The deterioration in relations came surprisingly quickly after the EU and China reached an investment deal long sought after by Germany at the end of 2020.

Human rights concerns and US pressure on the EU have undermined momentum, sown mistrust and damaged diplomatic relations.

Relations suffered further as Beijing refrained from condemning Moscow’s assault on Ukraine. Some within the EU see the emergence of a Sino-Russian bloc against the US, the EU and their more liberal allies.

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During a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Wednesday that “Sino-Russian cooperation has no limits”, echoing a line used by Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi.

The friendship between Russia and China “is clearly aimed at creating a new world order in which authoritarian big-power politics dominates the international rule of law,” said German MEP Reinhard Buetikofer, a frequent critic of Beijing.

But given China’s close trade ties with Europe, “China’s response to Russia’s aggression is a convoluted effort to be on Russia’s side without paying too much of a price,” he said. added Buetikofer, one of several MEPs sanctioned by China.

– ‘Pipe dream’ –

An EU official involved in preparations for the summit, which includes a session with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, stressed the importance of China’s position on Russia above all else.

“It has a very concrete meaning whether or not China uses its influence to establish a ceasefire, establish humanitarian corridors, whether or not it helps or does not help circumvent sanctions.”

But Sylvie Bermann, former French ambassador to Moscow and Beijing, warned: “The idea of ​​detaching China from Russia is a chimera”.

While Ukraine is high on the agenda of European leaders, the same cannot be said for Beijing.

Asked Wednesday what the Communist leadership expects from the summit, a Chinese foreign affairs spokesman did not once mention Ukraine by name.

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“The international situation is unstable and volatile, and uncertainty is growing,” spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, adding, “China and the EU are two major powers for world peace.”

But a senior EU official insisted that China “must realize that, even if it thinks (the Russian invasion of Ukraine) has nothing to do with EU-China relations, it is actually the case”.

Ding Chun, a professor at Shanghai Fudan University’s Institute of World Economy, still expected Ukraine to enter the conversation, although no developments were expected.

“Both sides will simply share their respective positions,” he told AFP.

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