Beijing’s newly appointed special envoy for the Ukraine war has met with President Volodymyr Zelensky, China confirmed Thursday as its attempts to fashion itself as a potential peacemaker in the grinding conflict, despite close ties with Russia.
Li Hui a seasoned former diplomat who served as ambassador to Russia from 2009 to 2019, is the highest ranking Chinese official to travel to Ukraine since the start of Moscow’s devastating war.
His two-day visit to Ukraine on Tuesday and Wednesday kicked off a wider tour of Europe where China’s close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin has sparked growing alarm.
Western leaders have hoped Chinese leader Xi Jinping might use his close rapport with Putin to end the war raging in Europe — an outcome that analysts say may be unlikely at this stage, given Beijing’s interests in maintaining the relationship.
China had previously remained tight-lipped on details about the visit of Li, Beijing’s Special Representative on Eurasian Affairs, which it had billed as part of a five-country tour to promote communication toward “a political settlement of the Ukraine crisis.”
In its statement Thursday morning, China’s Foreign Ministry confirmed Li had met Zelensky and other senior Ukrainian officials.
Li reiterated that China is willing to serve as a peace broker for resolving the Ukrainian crisis, on the basis of its previously stated positions on the war.
“There is no panacea in resolving the crisis. All parties need to start from themselves, accumulate mutual trust, and create conditions for ending the war and engaging in peace talks,” Li said, according to the readout.
Kyiv’s readout made no mention of the meeting with Zelensky.
Instead it said Li met foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba and discussed “topical issues of cooperation between Ukraine and China,” as well as “ways to stop Russian aggression.”
Last week, China’s Foreign Ministry announced Li would visit Ukraine, Poland, France, Germany and Russia starting May 15 – just days before the Group of Seven (G7) leaders are expected to affirm their solidarity against Moscow in a summit in Hiroshima, Japan. (CNN)