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China tells EU it will seek Ukraine peace

China offered the European Union assurances that it will seek peace in Ukraine but says this will be on its own terms, deflecting pressure for a tougher stance towards Russia.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told EU leaders his country would push for peace in “its own way” while President Xi Jinping said he hoped the EU would treat China “independently” in a nod to the bloc’s close ties with the United States.

The EU told China during the virtual summit with Li and Xi not to allow Russia to circumvent sanctions imposed over its invasion of Ukraine.

“We called on China to help end the war in Ukraine. China cannot turn a blind eye to Russia’s violation of international law,” European Council President Charles Michel told a news briefing with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen after the first EU-China summit since December 30, 2020.

“Any attempts to circumvent sanctions or provide aid to Russia would prolong the war,” he said.

China is forging closer energy, trade and security ties with Russia, positioning itself as a global force that can stand up to the US.

Li told the EU leaders that China has always sought peace and promoted negotiations and is willing to continue to play a constructive role together with the international community, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

CCTV also reported Xi’s comments on an independent EU policy.

Michel said that the two sides agreed that the war, which Russia calls a “special military operation,” was threatening global security and the global economy.

Michel and von der Leyen also described the tone as “open and frank” while von der Leyen said trade between two of the world’s biggest economies was far greater than China’s economic ties with Russia.

More than a quarter of China’s global trade was with the bloc and the US last year against just 2.4 per cent with Russia, an EU official said.

China has concerns that European countries are taking harder-line foreign policy cues from the US and has called for the EU to “exclude external interference” from its relations with China.

In 2019, the EU abruptly switched from soft diplomatic language to label China a systemic rival.

The EU, the United Kingdom and the United States have sanctioned Chinese officials over alleged human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region, which prompted China to retaliate in kind, freezing an already-negotiated EU-China investment deal.

China has since also suspended imports from Lithuania after the Baltic EU country allowed Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in its capital, angering China which regards the democratically ruled island as its own territory.

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