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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

China, Belarus presidents call for Ukraine cease-fire, talks

This Week

BEIJING (AP) — The presidents of China and Belarus joined Wednesday in urging a cease-fire and negotiations to bring about a political settlement to the Ukraine conflict.

The joint call came in a meeting in Beijing between Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Russia, and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.

That amounted to an endorsement of a Chinese 12-point peace proposal issued Friday that calls for the territorial integrity of all countries to be respected. The proposal does not say what would happen to the regions Russia has occupied since the invasion or give details on how the peace process should proceed, and has failed to gain much support.

“The core of China’s stance is to call for peace and encourage talks … and for the legitimate security concerns of all countries to be respected,” Xi was quoted as saying by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.

In a clear reference to the U.S. and its allies, he added, “Relevant countries should stop politicizing and using the world economy as their tool, and take measures that truly advance a cease-fire and stop to war and resolve the crisis peacefully.”

Belarus “fully agrees with and supports China’s position and proposals on a political solution to the Ukraine crisis, which is of great significance to resolving the crisis,” CCTV quoted Lukashenko as saying.

China has long had a close relationship with Lukashenko, and following their talks, the two leaders oversaw the signing of a raft of cooperation agreements in areas ranging from agriculture to customs enforcement and sports.

However, the Belarussian leader’s trip also illustrates the depth of Beijing’s ties to Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his allies.

China says it is a neutral party in the conflict and has maintained contacts with the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has cautiously welcomed Beijing’s involvement, but said success would depend on actions not words.

Despite that, China says it has a “no-limits friendship” with Russia and has refused to criticize Moscow’s invasion, or even to refer to it as such. It has accused the U.S. and NATO of provoking the conflict and of “fanning the flames” by providing Ukraine with defensive arms, while also condemning sanctions leveled against Russia and entities seen as aiding its military effort — including Chinese companies.

China has maintained what it calls normal trade relations with Russia, and U.S. officials have warned recently that it is considering sending military assistance to Moscow, which is running increasingly short on ammunition and other war materiel. Beijing has called the U.S. allegations a smear campaign and said it is committed to promoting peace talks.

Lukashenko’s government has strongly backed Moscow and allowed Belarus’ territory to be used as a staging ground for the initial invasion of Ukraine a year ago. Russia has maintained a contingent of troops and weapons in Belarus and the two neighbors and allies conducted joint military drills.

This stance left Lukashenko even more isolated in Europe, where his country faces sanctions from the European Union over both its role in the war and his repression of domestic opposition.

Lukashenko has been Belarus’ only president since the position was created in 1994. He brutally suppressed 2020 protests over his disputed reelection in a vote that the opposition and Western countries regarded as fraudulent.

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