EU urges China at summit not to help Russia in Ukraine war

BRUSSELS/BEIJING (Reuters) – The leaders of the European Union and China met for their first summit in two years on Friday as Brussels pressured Beijing for assurances that it would not supply arms to Russia and help Moscow circumvent Western sanctions imposed over its invasion of Ukraine. .

In unfamiliar open language, EU officials close to summit preparations said that any aid given to Russia would damage China’s international reputation and threaten relations with its biggest trading partners – Europe and the United States.

The Presidents of the European Commission and the European Council, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, along with EU Foreign Policy Coordinator Josep Borrell, have started virtual talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. They are scheduled to speak later on Friday with President Xi Jinping.

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An EU official said on Friday that China’s position on Russia is “a million-dollar issue”. Another noted that more than a quarter of China’s global trade was with the bloc and the United States last year, compared to just 2.4% with Russia.

“Do we prolong this war or work together to end this war? That is the main question of the summit,” the official said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi renewed China’s call for peace talks this week, adding that the legitimate concerns of all parties should be accommodated.

China and the European Union want to end the war, said Wang Yue, an expert on Europe at Beijing’s Renmin University.

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“I imagine that China wants to use this summit to discuss with the European Union how to create acceptable conditions for Putin to step down from his current position,” he said.

China itself has concerns that European countries are taking more hawkish signals in foreign policy than the United States, and has called on the EU to “exclude outside interference” from its relations with China.

Relations were already tense before the Ukraine war.

The European Union abruptly switched in 2019 from soft diplomatic language to describing China as a systemic competitor, but sees it as a potential partner in the fight against climate change or the epidemic.

Brussels and Beijing concluded an investment agreement at the end of 2020, aimed at resolving some of the European Union’s concerns about mutual market access. However, it has now been suspended after Brussels’ sanctions against Chinese officials over allegations of human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region have prompted Beijing to blacklist EU individuals and entities.

Since then, China has also halted imports from Lithuania after the European Union’s Baltic state allowed Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in its capital, angering Beijing, which considers the democratically governed island its territory. Read more

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Additional reporting by Robin Emmott. Writing by Philip Blinkinsop; Editing by Sandra Mahler and William McClain

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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