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

Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, will visit China next week to meet President Xi Jinping, where he is expected to stress that it will be up to Ukraine to decide on the foundations of any peace agreement with Russia.

News of Sánchez’s visit emerged on Wednesday evening, as Xi – who is trying to position himself as a mediator in the war between Russia and Ukraine – wrapped up a symbolic, two-day trip to Moscow.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Thursday as he attended an EU summit, Sánchez described China as a “top-tier global actor” and thanked Xi for the invitation to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Spain and China’s diplomatic relations.

But he said their meeting would also “obviously” include discussions about the “global crisis” caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I think it’s important to know first-hand what his position is on peace in Ukraine, and to tell him that it is the Ukrainians themselves who will lay down the conditions for the beginning of this peace, when it arrives,” he said.

“Second, the most important – the most fundamental – thing is to preserve an international rule-based order, which depends on respecting the UN charter. One of those fundamental principles is respecting territorial integrity – in this case the territorial integrity of Ukraine, which is being violated by President Putin.”

Sánchez also noted the importance of Spain being recognised as a possible diplomatic interlocutor during what he termed “such a complicated moment in geopolitical difficulties”.

Spain takes over the EU’s rotating presidency in July, and Sánchez has been keen to portray his nation as an important player on the world stage and a staunch Nato ally of Ukraine.

The prime minister’s office said he would hold commercial meetings during the Boao Forum for Asia on the Chinese island of Hainan on 30 March before travelling to Beijing to meet Xi the next day.

“China and Spain enjoy a sustained, sound and stable development of relations,” a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said on Thursday. “The two leaders maintain good communication,” they added, without providing further details.

In the official joint statement from the meeting of Putin and Xi on 21 March, the leaders said: “The Russian side welcomes China’s willingness to play a positive role for the political and diplomatic settlement of the Ukraine crisis and welcomes the constructive proposals set forth in China’s position on the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis.”

On 24 February, exactly one year after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, Xi published a 12-point position paper aimed, it claimed, at offering a way forward for the crisis in Ukraine.

The paper said the international community should “create conditions and platforms” for negotiations to resume, and said China would continue to “play a constructive role in this regard”. 

It did not offer specific steps but included strong language opposing the “threat or use” of nuclear weapons.

The plan, however, received a cool reception from western leaders who argued that Beijing did not have the international credibility to act as a mediator in the conflict.

Jens Stoltenberg, Nato’s secretary general, said that China had failed to condemn the illegal invasion of Ukraine, while Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said China had already “taken sides” in the conflict.

The Associated Press contributed to this report


Sam Jones in Madrid

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
‘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

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor in Bali

16, Nov, 2022 @5:04 PM

Article image
China has its own reasons for being at Ukraine peace talks in Saudi Arabia
Gathering in Jeddah offers Beijing chance to placate global south and limit damage with west over Russia relations

Emma Graham-Harrison

11, Aug, 2023 @4:56 PM

Article image
France backs plans for tribunal for Russian officials over Ukraine war
France is first major western country to publicly support proposal for special court to try for crime of aggression

Isobel Koshiw in Kyiv and Jennifer Rankin in Brussels

01, Dec, 2022 @2:43 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
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
Migration could be ‘dissolving force for EU’, says bloc’s top diplomat
Exclusive: Josep Borrell calls for European unity in face of Ukraine war, US-China competition and rise of global south

Patrick Wintour in New York

22, Sep, 2023 @11:39 AM

Article image
Russia threatens to ‘reassess collaboration’ with UN chief over drone inspection
Ambassador denies drones fired on Ukraine are supplied by Iran and calls UN inquiry ‘illegitimate’

Patrick Wintour

20, Oct, 2022 @4:26 PM

Article image
EU tells ministers they must ‘recalibrate’ China policy over support for Russia
Josep Borrell says relations will worsen if Xi Jinping does not push Putin to withdraw from Ukraine

Jennifer Rankin in Brussels

12, May, 2023 @2:03 PM

Article image
‘Good old friend’: Putin offers praise for Xi ahead of first trip to Russia since Ukraine invasion
Russian president lauds Xi ahead of meeting, while Beijing calls for a ‘rational way’ out of the crisis

Pjotr Sauer and Amy Hawkins

20, Mar, 2023 @1:00 AM

Article image
Putin welcomes China’s controversial proposals for peace in Ukraine
But US warns against ‘any tactical move by Russia to freeze the war on its own terms’

Pjotr Sauer, and Helen Davidson in Taipei

21, Mar, 2023 @6:28 PM