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China, Belarus presidents call for establishing peace in Ukraine

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko have called for a ceasefire and negotiations to reach a political settlement of the conflict in Ukraine during talks in Beijing.

The two leaders issued a joint statement on Wednesday expressing “deep concern about the development of the armed conflict in the European region and extreme interest in establishing peace in Ukraine as soon as possible,” according to the Belarusian state news agency Belta.

“Belarus and China are interested in averting an escalation of the crisis and are ready to make efforts to restore regional peace and order,” it added.

Their summit brought together two of the foreign leaders on whom Russian President Vladimir Putin depends most for support as his military struggles to achieve the goals of his years-long invasion.

Beijing is increasingly calling for peace as the conflict in Ukraine continues, and denied it would supply weapons to Moscow after US officials said China was considering doing so.

Last week it released a 12-point document calling for a comprehensive ceasefire in Ukraine, which largely summarized China’s previous stance and was met with skepticism in the West.

In televised comments, Xi said China is keen to strengthen trust and cooperation with Belarus “given the instability and turbulence of the international situation”.

In a clear reference to the US and its allies, Xi added: “Relevant countries must stop politicizing and use the global economy as their tool, and take measures that truly promote a ceasefire and end war and the resolve crisis peacefully.”

‘Descent into a global confrontation’

Lukashenko said the meeting took place “at a very complicated time” and was necessary to avoid “an uncontrolled descent into a global confrontation without winners”.

He said that in his peace plan, Xi had “clearly, definitively and emphatically stated this to the international community.

“This is why Belarus has been actively pushing forward its peace proposals and fully supports your push for international security,” he added.

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

However, the Belarusian leader’s journey also illustrated Beijing’s deep ties to Russian leader Putin and his allies.

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

Despite that, China has said it has a “friendship without borders” with Russia and has declined to criticize, or even refer to, Moscow’s invasion.

It has accused the US and NATO of provoking the conflict and “fanning the fire” by supplying Ukraine with defensive weapons, while also condemning sanctions enacted against Russia and entities believed to be military efforts, including Chinese companies.

Belarus shares a border with both Ukraine and Russia, but is financially and politically dependent on the Putin government. Lukashenko’s government has strongly supported Moscow and allowed the territory of Belarus to be used as a training ground for the first invasion of Ukraine a year ago.

Russia has a contingent of troops and weapons in Belarus and the two neighboring countries and allies have held joint military exercises.

This attitude left Lukashenko even more isolated in Europe, where his country faces sanctions from the European Union for both his role in the war and Lukashenko’s suppression of domestic opposition.

China also has long ties with Lukashenko, who has been Belarus’ sole president since the position was created in 1994. He brutally suppressed 2020 protests against his disputed re-election in a vote that the opposition and Western countries viewed as fraudulent.