'China has taken Russia's side': EU dismisses Beijing's 'misplaced' plan for peace in Ukraine

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The European Union has questioned the credibility of China's position paper for peace in Ukraine, saying Beijing has already taken Moscow's side in the war.

A 12-point position paper was released on Friday to mark the first anniversary of Russia's invasion, opposing the use of sanctions and nuclear weapons, and calling on all parties to stop "fanning the flames" of the war.

Speaking in Estonia, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen implied that China was not a neutral party in the conflict.

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"You have to see [the paper] against a specific backdrop. And that is the backdrop that China has taken a side by signing an unlimited friendship right before invasion of Ukraine started," she said, referring to a cooperation agreement signed by Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin in Beijing on February 6 last year.

"So we will look at the principles of course, but we will look at them against the backdrop that China has taken sides."

This view was also espoused by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who told German state broadcaster ZDF: "We should have no illusions about China. They have up until now not taken a stand against Russia."

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping signed a "no limits" cooperation agreement weeks before Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. Photo: AP alt=Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping signed a "no limits" cooperation agreement weeks before Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. Photo: AP>

The hotly anticipated Chinese proposal reflected talking points its officials and diplomats have frequently made over the past 12 months.

The paper said the "cold war mentality" should be abandoned and "bloc confrontation" should be avoided.

"The security of a region should not be achieved by strengthening or expanding military blocs," it said.

"Relevant countries should stop abusing unilateral sanctions and 'long-arm jurisdiction' against other countries, so as to do their share in de-escalating the Ukraine crisis and create conditions for developing countries to grow their economies and better the lives of their people," the paper said, in a swipe at the US and Europe.

In an article published on Friday, Dutch ambassador to China Wim Geerts slammed China's proposal as "politically motivated to conceal Russia's crimes and to blame 'the West' instead".

"This may fool some, but Ukrainians understand the basic truth that the responsibility for the murder of their compatriots lies with the one who points the gun and pulls the trigger," he wrote.

In Brussels, EU spokeswoman Nabila Massrali expanded on the EU's views when asked by the South China Morning Post.

"We have taken careful note of China's 12-point position paper. It emphasises certain principles of the UN Charter, but is selective and insufficient about the implications for Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine," she said.

Beijing's position "builds on the misplaced focus on the so-called legitimate security interests and concerns of parties, implying a justification for Russia's illegal invasion, and blurring the roles of the aggressor and the aggressed", she continued.

The paper does not differentiate between the aggressor and the victim in "an illegal war of aggression", Massrali added.

She "regretted" Beijing's decision to abstain in a United Nations vote calling for a full withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian soil on Thursday.

"We regret China's decision to abstain from voting for the resolution, this sends very mixed signals in the light of China's 12-point position paper," she said, adding that Brussels is "ready to support any genuine, meaningful negotiating and mediation efforts to end Russia's war of aggression".

The paper is expected to be discussed at a virtual meeting of G7 leaders on Friday afternoon, where officials are also expected to discuss fresh allegations that China is considering providing lethal arms to Russia.

German magazine Der Spiegel reported on Thursday that a Chinese drone maker "has agreed to manufacture and test 100 kamikaze drones, before delivering them to the Russian military" as soon as April.

Also speaking in Tallinn, Estonia on Friday, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said "we have not seen any actual delivery of lethal aid".

"But what we have seen are signs and indications that China may be planning and considering to supply military aid to Russia, and China should not do that," he added.

In Beijing on Friday, EU ambassador to China Jorge Toledo reiterated that the provision of arms would be a "red line".

"[Supplying arms to Russia] is a red line for us, and the consequences of crossing this red line would be very important also for our economic relations. But there is no question about it, there is no case, so we will continue engaging with China now," Toledo said.

Massrali said that she was "aware of an increasing number of reports and the disturbing rise in accounts of supplies of material which may be used in the war efforts". "We currently have no clear evidence of China providing lethal weapons systems to Russia," she said.

In meetings with EU officials, Beijing has denied that it has or ever will provide lethal military assistance to Moscow, top EU diplomat Josep Borrell said earlier this week.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2023 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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