Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky held a call with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, marking the first time the two leaders spoke since Russia launched its invasion last year. On Twitter, Zelensky said the conversation was “meaningful.”
“I had a long and meaningful phone call with President Xi Jinping. I believe that this call, as well as the appointment of Ukraine’s ambassador to China, will give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations,” Zelensky wrote.
According to a Chinese readout of the call, Xi expressed to Zelensky Beijing’s position on the war and called for diplomacy. “President Xi pointed out that the Ukraine crisis is evolving in complex ways with major impacts on the international landscape. On the Ukraine crisis, China always stands on the side of peace. Its core stance is to facilitate talks for peace,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.
Xi emerged as a potential mediator between Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin after Beijing released a 12-point peace plan for the conflict in February. Xi told Zelensky that China will “continue to facilitate talks for peace and make its efforts for early ceasefire and restoration of peace.”
According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, China will send officials to Ukraine and other countries in the region to have “in-depth communication with all parties on the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis.” The ministry added that Beijing has provided Ukraine with humanitarian assistance and will continue to do so.
The Biden administration has discouraged peace talks throughout the war and rejected the idea of China as a mediator when it released its peace plan. Ahead of Xi’s trip to meet Putin in Moscow last month, the White House came out against a ceasefire in Ukraine.
Despite the US position, the White House said Wednesday that it was a “good thing” Xi and Zelensky spoke. “Now, whether that’s going to lead to some sort of meaningful peace movement, or plan, or proposal, I just don’t think we know that right now,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry threw cold water on the idea of China’s efforts leading to peace talks on Wednesday, saying the Ukrainian government “has been rejecting all reasonable initiatives aimed at finding a political and diplomatic solution to the Ukrainian crisis.”