Monday, June 24, 2024

Assessing China’s plan for Russia-Ukraine talks

(Al Jazeera Media Network) China has released its much-anticipated position paper on the Russia-Ukraine war, in which it calls for a ceasefire and talks between the two parties.

Conflict and war “benefit no one”, China said on Friday in the 12-point paper, timed to coincide with the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

“All parties must stay rational and exercise restraint, avoid fanning the flames and aggravating tensions, and prevent the crisis from deteriorating further or even spiralling out of control,” it said.

Released by the foreign ministry, the plan urges an end to western sanctions against Russia, the establishment of humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians and steps to ensure the export of grain after disruptions caused global food prices to spike last year.

The proposal mainly elaborates on long-held Chinese positions, including that all countries’ “sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity be effectively guaranteed.”

It said nuclear power plants must be kept safe, and the threat or use of nuclear weapons should be opposed.

The plan also called for an end to the “Cold War mentality,” which is Beijing’s standard term for what it regards as global dominance by the United States and its interference in other countries’ affairs.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Kyiv needed to co-operate with China to put an end to the war.

“China started talking about Ukraine, and that’s not bad,” Zelenskyy said. “It seems to me that there is respect for our territorial integrity, security issues.”

“We need to work with China on this point. … Our task is to unite everyone in order to isolate one,” he added.

Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Ukraine’s president, said any plan to end Russia’s war in Ukraine must involve the withdrawal of Moscow’s troops back to Ukraine’s 1991 borders at the time of the Soviet Union’s collapse.

“Any ‘peace plan’ with ceasefire only and, as a result, a new delimitation line and continued occupation of Ukrainian territory isn’t about peace, but about freezing the war, a Ukrainian defeat, (and the) next stages of Russia’s genocide,” he said in a post on Twitter.

“Ukraine’s position is known – the withdrawal of Russian troops to the borders of 1991,” he said.

Earlier, Ukraine’s first deputy foreign minister told Al Jazeera that the country welcomes China’s proposal to mediate between Kyiv and Moscow.

“We welcome any initiative that is actually aimed at finding peace and resolving the war,” Emine Dzhaparova said from Kyiv. “… We are the country that is most interested in having any kind of peace because we’ve been suffering this hell for a year.”

“The document … that we received today in the morning is called the political position of China about the crisis. We will study it thoroughly,” she added. “The only thing that I want to clarify is what is the basis for this peace because we believe in justice and fair peace, not appeasement.”

The 12-point document did not reveal any new initiatives, and western diplomats and experts reacted with scepticism and disappointment, noting that China is not neutral and has not condemned Russia’s invasion.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Beijing was not well-placed to negotiate an end to the war.

“China doesn’t have much credibility because they have not been able to condemn the illegal invasion of Ukraine,” he told reporters in Tallinn, adding that Beijing had signed an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin days before the invasion.

A spokesperson for Germany’s government noted important elements, such as a call for the withdrawal of Russian forces, were missing from the proposal.

“It is important that China now discusses these ideas directly with Ukraine as this is the only way to find a balanced solution that takes Ukraine’s legitimate interests into account,” the spokesperson said.

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