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18 Mar, 2024 15:15

China comments on Swiss-proposed Ukraine peace talks

Beijing is considering taking part in event, according to its ambassador in Bern
China comments on Swiss-proposed Ukraine peace talks

China is examining the possibility of taking part in a proposed Swiss-hosted peace conference on the Ukraine conflict, Beijing’s ambassador to Bern, Wang Shihting, told the daily Neue Zuercher Zeitung on Monday.

Last month, Switzerland announced plans to organize a peace summit, which would take place “by the summer.” No specific date has been set, nor has a list of participants been revealed. However, Ukraine has indicated that Russia can only be invited if it agrees in advance to a litany of preconditions.

Beijing has reportedly been pushing to have Moscow invited to the peace talks, with Wang saying on Monday that all parties must be involved to end the ongoing conflict.

“The crisis must be prevented from getting even worse, or even getting out of control,” the envoy said, noting that China has already put forward a strategy for a political end to the conflict, and adding that Beijing has been following the Swiss proposal and is considering taking part.

“The territorial sovereignty of all countries must be respected, and the UN Charter must be adhered to,” Wang stressed. “We should support Russia and Ukraine resuming direct dialogue as quickly as possible so that the situation can be gradually de-escalated,” the diplomat recommended.

Moscow has called the proposed peace conference plan “pointless” and indicated it has no intention of participating, even if officially invited.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said last week that the proposed forum would be dedicated to the promotion of the ‘Zelensky peace formula’ which Moscow has panned as unrealistic.

Zelensky’s plan includes the full withdrawal of Russian troops and a return to Ukraine’s 1991 borders, holding Moscow accountable and forced to pay reparations, among other conditions. Kiev’s basic demands remain the same, while legitimate Russian interests are being ignored, according to Zakharova. She insisted that Switzerland has “lost” its neutral status and cannot serve as a platform for peacekeeping efforts.

Ukraine’s Western backers insist that a peace settlement can only be achieved on Kiev’s terms and have vowed to continue weapons deliveries for “as long as it takes.” Russia, meanwhile, has stressed that no amount of foreign aid will change the course of the conflict.

Peace negotiations between Moscow and Kiev were held in Istanbul in the spring of 2022 but broke down, with each side accusing the other of making unrealistic demands. Russian President Vladimir Putin has since said that the Ukrainian delegation had initially agreed with some of Moscow’s terms, but then abruptly reneged on the deal.

The Kremlin has said that it remains open to discussions, but only if Kiev recognizes the “reality on the ground.”

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