Xi to hold talks with Putin in Russia in 'visit for peace'
Beijing [China], March 18: Chinese President Xi Jinping will make a state visit to Russia next week, Beijing and Moscow said on Friday.
The Kremlin said the three-day trip will take place "at the invitation" of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
The announcement came on the same day that the International Criminal Court at The Hague issued a rare arrest warrant for Putin for alleged war crimes over the Ukraine conflict.
The West is suspicious of China's close relations with Russia and Beijing's vow to stay neutral in the nearly 13-month-old conflict.
What is on the agenda?
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Putin and Xi would have a one-to-one meeting over an informal dinner Monday. On Tuesday, officials from both countries are set to take part in broader talks.
"During the talks, they will discuss topical issues of further development of comprehensive partnership relations and strategic cooperation between Russia and China," the Kremlin said. "A number of important bilateral documents will be signed," it added.
Putin wants closer military ties with China
China's Foreign Ministry described Xi's trip as "a visit for peace" that aimed to "practice true multilateralism... improve global governance and make contributions to the development and progress of the world."
"At present, changes not seen in a century are rapidly evolving, and the world has entered a new period of turmoil," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular press conference.
"China will uphold its objective and fair position on the Ukrainian crisis and play a constructive role in promoting peace talks."
Beijing's peace efforts
China has previously offered to broker peace in Russia's invasion of Ukraine. But Beijing's refusal to condemn Russia's war has prompted the West to react to its mediation efforts with skepticism.
Top-ranking US officials have even accused China of supplying Russia with arms for its ongoing war in Ukraine. China has denied these claims.
On Friday, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the US would oppose any effort by China at the meeting to propose a cease-fire in Ukraine as the "ratification of Russian conquest."
"We also hope that President Xi will reach out to President Zelenskyy directly, as we continue to believe that it's very important that he hears from the Ukrainian side as well and not just from Mr. Putin," Kirby added.
Kyiv attempts to boost Beijing ties
Kyiv has sought to strengthen its relations with Beijing and on the anniversary of Russia's invasion, Zelenskyy urged China to take part in a summit to discuss Kyiv's so-called peace formula.
Ukraine has repeatedly said that any plan to end the war must involve the full withdrawal of Russian troops to Ukraine's borders in 1991, the year the Soviet Union was dissolved.
China's top diplomat Qin Gang held a rare phone conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart, DmytroKuleba, on Thursday.
Qin told Kuleba that Beijing "always upheld an objective and fair stance on the Ukraine issue, has committed itself to promote peace and advancing negotiations and calls on the international community to create conditions for peace talks," according to China's Foreign Ministry.
Kuleba wrote on Twitter that he "underscored the importance of Zelenskyy's Peace Formula for ending the aggression and restoring just peace in Ukraine."
Chinese-Russian 'no limit' ties
In February 2022, Beijing and Moscow struck a "no limits" partnership when Putin was visiting China for the opening of the Winter Olympics - weeks before launching the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Since then, both countries have reaffirmed the strength of their ties.
In late December, Putin invited Xi to Russia over a conference video call to "demonstrate to the whole world the strength of the Russian-Chinese ties." He further said that the visit could "become the main political event of the year in bilateral relations."
Trade between the two countries has increased since the invasion last year. China is Russia's biggest buyer of oil, a key source of revenue for Moscow at a time when the European Union and its allies have economically boycotted the Kremlin.
Source: Times of Oman