Xi calls on world powers to help Russia and Ukraine resume direct dialogue

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands before a meeting in
Beijing, China, yesterday

Chinese President Xi Jinping called on world powers to help Russia and Ukraine resume direct dialogue during a meeting yesterday with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, state broadcaster reported.

Orbán made a surprise visit to China after similar trips last week to Russia and Ukraine to discuss prospects for a peaceful settlement of more than the two-year war. Hungary assumed the rotating presidency of the European Union this month and Orbán has since embarked on a peace mission, which, however, lacks the endorsement of other European leaders.

“China is a key power in creating the conditions for peace in the Russia-Ukraine war,” Orbán wrote on the social media platform X. “This is why I came to meet with President Xi in Beijing, just two months after his official visit to Budapest.”

“Peace mission 3.0” is how the prime minister captioned a picture posted on X as he touched down in Beijing.

During his meeting with Xi, Orbán described China as a stabilizing force amid global turbulence and praised its “constructive and important” peace initiatives.

China has been promoting its own six-point peace plan, which it issued with Brazil in May. Beijing says it is neutral in the conflict, though in practice it supports Moscow through frequent state visits, growing trade and joint military drills.

While hosting Orbán, Xi called on Russia and Ukraine to cease fire and on other major powers to create an environment conducive to talks. Only when all major powers project “positive energy rather than negative energy” can a cease-fire occur, Xi said, according to CCTV.

Orbán hosted the Chinese leader in Hungary only two months ago as part of a three-country European tour that also included stops in France and Serbia, which unlike the other two is not a member of the EU or NATO.

During the trip, China upgraded its ties with Hungary to an “all-weather, comprehensive strategic partnership,” one of its highest designations for foreign relations that in addition to Hungary applies only to Belarus, Pakistan and Venezuela.

Hungary under Orbán has built substantial political and economic ties with China. The European nation hosts a number of Chinese electric vehicle battery facilities, and in December it announced that Chinese EV manufacturing giant BYD will open its first European EV production factory in the south of the country.

Orbán is widely seen as having the warmest relations with Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin among European leaders. His visit to Moscow last week drew condemnation from Kyiv and EU officials.

Putin had suggested Orbán come to Moscow as a top representative of the European Council, but several top European officials dismissed that suggestion and said Orbán had no mandate for anything beyond a discussion about bilateral relations.

The Hungarian prime minister has routinely blocked, delayed or watered down EU efforts to assist Kyiv and impose sanctions on Moscow for its actions in Ukraine. He has long argued for a cessation of hostilities in Ukraine but without outlining what that might mean for the country’s territorial integrity or future security.

That posture has frustrated Hungary’s EU and NATO allies, who have denounced Russia’s invasion as a breach of international law and a threat to the security of Eastern Europe.

Standing alongside Orbán last week in Moscow, Putin declared that Russia wouldn’t accept any cease-fire or temporary break in hostilities that would allow Ukraine “to recoup losses, regroup and rearm.”

Putin repeated his demand that Ukraine withdraw its troops from the four regions that Moscow claims to have annexed in 2022 as a condition for any prospective peace talks. Ukraine and its Western allies have rejected that demand, suggesting it is akin to asking Kyiv to withdraw from its own territory.

Orbán will next head to Washington, D.C., where NATO leaders are holding a summit to discuss ways to assure Ukraine of the alliance’s continued support.

“Next stop: Washington,” Orbán posted on his social media account yesterday. It was not clear whether he would meet separately with President Joe Biden, or Donald Trump, whose presidential candidacy Orbán openly supports. SIMINA MISTREANU, TAIPEI, MDT/AP

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