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12 Oct, 2023 08:01

EU not convinced of Beijing’s neutrality on Ukraine – Borrell

The foreign policy chief is traveling to China to argue that the bloc is a serious independent player
EU not convinced of Beijing’s neutrality on Ukraine – Borrell

China should do more to convince Kiev and its Western backers that it is not on Moscow’s side in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has said ahead of a visit to the Asian superpower. He expressed doubt that neutrality on the issue is even possible.

“Being neutral in such a case is just like watching on the sidelines as the fox enters the henhouse and waiting for the outcome,” he said in an interview with the South China Morning Post on Thursday.

Beijing has criticized Moscow for using force, but agreed with Russian claims that NATO expansion in Europe was one of the main causes of the conflict. The EU has joined the US in describing Russia’s actions as “unprovoked aggression.” Moscow has said the conflict is part of a Western proxy war.

“China can certainly do more, including in its engagement on the peace formula put forward by Ukraine,” the commissioner added, stating that “a lot remains to be done to convince Ukraine that China is not on Russia’s side.”

The ‘Zelensky formula’ that Borrell was referring to was put forward by Kiev and its backers as the only way to resolve the conflict. It demands that Russia concede defeat, pay reparations, and hand over alleged war criminals to an international tribunal.

Beijing proposed its own roadmap to de-escalation last year, urging respect for the territorial integrity “of all countries” while addressing Russia’s national security concerns.

Moscow has dismissed Kiev’s plan, saying it is “detached from reality,” while the Chinese proposal could serve as the basis for a long-term solution.

Borrell said his goal during the three-day visit is to affirm that “Europe takes China seriously and has no hidden agenda aiming at derailing its rise.” Brussels expects Beijing to take it seriously in return and to “stop looking at us through the lens of its relations with others.”

He added that the “war in Ukraine has transformed us … from the position of an economic power to a geopolitical one, taking its strategic responsibilities very seriously.”

The EU has decoupled its economy from Russia over the Ukraine conflict. The rejection of cheap Russian energy undercut the competitiveness of many businesses in member states, some of which relocated to other nations, including the US.

Senior EU officials have argued that the bloc needs to “de-risk” economic relations with China, specifically citing its non-alignment on Ukraine as a reason.

How China continues to interact with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s war will be a determining factor for EU-China relations going forward,” European Commission President Ursula von Der Leyen said in March.

Chinese President Xi Jinping stated that Beijing is standing up “for its sovereignty, security and development interests,” when he hosted the EU official the following month.