Emmanuel Macron announces China visit to increase pressure on Putin

Macron shakes hands with someone at the event - Christophe Petit/AFP via Getty Images

Macron shakes hands with someone at the event – Christophe Petit/AFP via Getty Images

Emmanuel Macron is to visit China in April in an attempt to convince Beijing to put pressure on Vladimir Putin to end the war in Ukraine.

The French president’s announcement on Saturday came a day after China called for urgent peace talks and unveiled a 12 point plan to end the year-long war.

Several Western powers rebuffed the proposals for a “political settlement” to the crisis sparked by Russia’s illegal invasion and warned Beijing was too close to Moscow.

“The fact that China is engaging in peace efforts is a good thing,” Mr Macron said on the sidelines of an agricultural show in Paris.

Mr Macron urged China, which has a close alliance with Moscow, “not to supply any arms to Russia”.

He sought Beijing’s help to “exert pressure on Russia to ensure it never uses chemical or nuclear weapons and it stops this aggression prior to negotiations”.

He added that said peace was only possible if “Russian aggression was halted, troops withdrawn, and the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine and its people was respected”.

The Chinese peace plan urges all parties to “support Russia and Ukraine in working in the same direction and resuming direct dialogue as quickly as possible”.

It also makes clear its opposition to not only the use of nuclear weapons, but the threat of deploying them, after the Russian leader threatened their use last year.

Russia has said any solution should recognise Kremlin control over four Ukrainian regions.

On Friday, Volodymyr Zelensky said that he was planning to meet China’s Xi Jinping and expressed hope that China would support a “just peace”.

But on Saturday, Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to the Ukrainian president dismissed China’s “unrealistic” proposal to end the war.

Beijing has sought to position itself as a neutral party, while maintaining close ties with strategic ally Russia, as it looks to play a role as mediator in the war.

On Thursday, China abstained from a UN General Assembly vote demanding that Russia immediately and unconditionally withdraw its troops from Ukraine.

Beijing announced on Saturday that Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian President and close ally of Putin, would visit China from February 28 to March 2.

Belarus, which shares a border with Ukraine and Russia, allowed Moscow to use its territory to launch its invasion of Ukraine.