‘China can play mediating role’: Macron to visit Xi Jinping over war in Ukraine

French president believes China can help push Russia to de-escalate Ukraine war

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, has said he intends to visit Beijing in the new year and believes his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, can play a mediating role that prevents a resumption of large-scale land fighting in Ukraine in February.

Speaking at the close of the G20 in Bali, a summit dominated by the Russian attack on Ukraine and its implications for the world economy, he said he believed China could take a mediating role in the conflict.

“I am convinced China can play, on our side, a more important mediating role in the coming months, to prevent in particular a stronger return of ground offensives in early February,” he said.

Macron’s remarks imply that he thinks Ukraine may have to be prepared to negotiate with Russia before it has regained all the territory it has lost since the initial Russian incursion of 2014. Few military experts believe Ukraine, despite recent successes, could take the highly defended Russian positions, including Crimea, before February with an expected winter slowdown in the fighting.

Macron also said the immediate task was to do everything to help Ukraine resist, and regardless of the source of the stray missile that landed in Poland on Tuesday, Russia had fired as many as 85 missiles into Ukraine that day in an attack on its energy infrastructure. He described it as “a terrible day for the Ukrainian people”, and possibly designed as a message to members of the G20.

A draft declaration issued from G20 leaders at the close of the summit said “most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine” and demanded Russia’s “complete and unconditional withdrawal” from its neighbour’s territory. The reference to war is a rejection of Russia’s claim that it is involved in a “special military operation”.

But the draft also said, “There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions,” reflecting the divisions among G20 states over Russia. China and India have both refrained from outright criticism of the Kremlin’s invasion.

Macron said: “The G20 has not looked away from the war in Ukraine. Even if Vladimir Putin did not come, the message sent to him was very clear, the vast majority condemns the war in Ukraine. That is a fact.”

He added that behind the scenes at the summit there had been a growing consensus. “There is space of convergence, including with the major economies China and India, to push Russia to de-escalate.

“We have brought together Senegal, Rwanda, South Africa, Argentina and Mexico to create convergences and have a clear message vis-a-vis Russia, a complete call for Russia to end this war.”

But he repeatedly said there was a consensus that the war must end in negotiations. He has previously said, and faced criticism for saying, that the war cannot end in humiliation for Russia, a remark he has not recently repeated as Russia’s methods have become ever more brutal.

Macron’s hopes of a shift in the Chinese position followed a meeting with Xi in Bali on Tuesday. At his press conference he said he was convinced that Xi was sincere, and upheld the UN charter’s support for the sovereignty of nations. The summit represented a formal end to Xi’s diplomatic isolation caused by Covid, and the west led by the US clearly is in a mood to reopen lines of communication.

Sceptics say that Putin and Xi committed themselves to a partnership without limits very soon before the invasion, and China has done little to distance itself from Russia subsequently. But Chinese sources told the FT they felt they were lied to by Putin, remarks that implied a weakening in the relationship.

G20 leaders left Bali relieved that the missile that landed in Poland, killing two people, was most likely a Ukrainian air defence missile, rather than a deliberate Russian provocation, but the episode underlined the vulnerability of the Eastern borders of Nato. “It is an instructive lesson in how fragile this state of affairs remains”, said one European diplomat.

Macron was at the forefront of western efforts at the summit to connect with the global south, saying he supported the African Union becoming a full permanent member of the G20. He also vowed to hold a new international conference on a financial pact with the south in Paris in June with the aim of creating a boost in finance to the south.

“We must not ask these countries to support multilateralism if the system is not able to respond to these vital emergencies. He also hailed the likely long term renewal of the grain and fertiliser deal allowing exports from Ukraine and Russia to be renewed by the end of the year.

Contributor

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor in Bali

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Five key takeaways from the G20 meeting in Bali
From Xi Jinping’s first international appearance in three years to leaders snubbing Russia, here are the significant moments

Justin McCurry

16, Nov, 2022 @3:53 PM

Article image
Macron urges Xi to bring Russia ‘back to reason’ over Ukraine
French president makes plea as two leaders hold first of series of high-level meetings in Beijing

Amy Hawkins, Angelique Chrisafis and agencies

06, Apr, 2023 @11:03 AM

Article image
Macron arrives in China hoping to talk Xi into changing stance on Ukraine
French leader sees Beijing as possible ‘gamechanger’ and will also discuss European trade on three-day visit

Angelique Chrisafis in Paris and Amy Hawkins

05, Apr, 2023 @11:17 AM

Article image
Emmanuel Macron hosts Xi Jinping in attempt to strengthen EU-China relationship
French president invited Angela Merkel to talks with Chinese leader in Paris

Kim Willsher in Paris

26, Mar, 2019 @4:33 PM

Article image
Spanish PM to discuss Ukraine with Xi Jinping on visit to China
Pedro Sánchez says he will tell Chinese leader it must be Ukrainians who ‘lay down conditions’ for any peace agreement

Sam Jones in Madrid

23, Mar, 2023 @1:39 PM

Article image
Macron brings gift of horse called Vesuvius on visit to China
French president is praised by Chinese experts for present of eight-year-old gelding, a ‘symbol of French excellence’

Tom Phillips in Beijing

08, Jan, 2018 @9:54 AM

Article image
Emmanuel Macron to visit China as Beijing shifts focus from UK to France
China and France see French president’s visit as chance to transform bilateral ties after Brexit and election of Donald Trump

Kim Willsher in Paris and Tom Phillips in Beijing

07, Jan, 2018 @7:10 PM

Article image
Xi Jinping says China ready to ‘stand guard over world order’ on Moscow visit
Chinese leader expected to position himself as peacemaker but US condemns Xi for providing ‘diplomatic cover’ for atrocities in Ukraine

Pjotr Sauer and Amy Hawkins

20, Mar, 2023 @7:34 PM

Article image
China denies cover-up as Wuhan coronavirus deaths revised up 50%
Revision to total comes after weeks of scepticism over officially reported figures

Lily Kuo in Beijing

17, Apr, 2020 @12:21 PM

Article image
Orbán must not hold EU hostage over Ukraine, Macron says
French president accuses Hungarian PM of being dishonest to the public about his reasons for vetoing aid

Lisa O'Carroll in Brussels

15, Dec, 2023 @6:01 PM