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

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping has called on world powers to help Russia and Ukraine resume direct dialogue at a meeting Monday with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

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

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

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, leaders in kyiv and the EU condemned the move, saying Orbán was not acting on behalf of the entire European bloc.

Their rebuke did not stop Orbán from extending a similar visit to Beijing, which he called “Peace Mission 3.0” in a photo posted on X.

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

China is promoting its own six-point peace plan, which it presented with Brazil in May. Beijing claims to be neutral in the conflict, although in practice it supports Moscow with frequent state visits, growing trade and joint military exercises.

During his visit to Russia, Orban called on Russia and Ukraine to cease fire and other major powers to create an environment conducive to negotiations. According to CCTV, Xi said that only when all major powers project “positive energy rather than negative energy” can a ceasefire take place.

Orbán welcomed the Chinese president to Hungary just 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 elevated its ties with Hungary to the status of “all-weather comprehensive strategic partnership,” one of its highest designations in foreign relations that, apart from Hungary, applies only to Belarus, Pakistan and Venezuela.

Hungary, under Orbán, has forged significant political and economic ties with China. The European nation is home to a number of Chinese electric vehicle battery factories, and in December it announced that Chinese electric vehicle manufacturing giant BYD would open its doors first European factory for the production of electric vehicles in the south of the country.

The Hungarian prime minister is widely opposed to Western military aid to Ukraine and has blocked, delayed or diluted The EU is trying to help kyiv and impose sanctions on Moscow for its invasion. Viktor Orbán has long advocated for a cessation of hostilities in Ukraine, but without specifying what this might mean for the country’s territorial integrity or its future security.

This stance has frustrated Hungary’s allies in the EU and NATO, who have denounced the Russian invasion as a violation of international law and a threat to Eastern European security.

“As Europe increasingly tries to speak with one voice in its relations with China and Russia, Orbán’s unannounced and uncoordinated trips do not help signal or create a unified European Union when it comes to EU-China relations,” said Eva Seiwert, an expert on China foreign policy and security at the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin.

Orbán’s proposals for resolving the war largely correspond to Putin’s interests, Seiwert added, although the Hungarian prime minister could prove useful in organizing a peace conference in the future.

Last week, alongside Orbán in Moscow, Putin said Russia would not accept any ceasefire or temporary pause in hostilities that would allow Ukraine to “recover its losses, regroup and rearm.”

Putin has reiterated his demand that Ukraine withdraw its troops from the four regions Moscow says it has annexed by 2022 as a condition for any peace talks. Ukraine and its Western allies have rejected the demand, suggesting it would amount to asking Kiev to withdraw from its own territory.

China, meanwhile, has expanded its influence in Central Asia and Eastern Europe in recent years, beyond its “limitless” partnership with Moscow. Over the weekend, China held “anti-terrorism” military exercises with Belarus – a key Russian ally – near the border with Poland. The exercises followed last week’s. Belarus joins regional security organization led by China and Russia.

Orbán will then travel to Washington, DC, where NATO leaders are holding a summit to discuss ways to ensure Ukraine’s continued support from the alliance.

“Next stop: Washington,” Orbán wrote on his social media account on Monday. It is unclear whether he will meet separately with President Joe Biden or Donald Trump, whose presidential candidacy Orbán openly supports.


Associated Press writers Adam Schreck in Bangkok, Justin Spike in Budapest, Hungary, and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

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