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Chinese President Xi Jinping will travel to Moscow next week to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, his first official visit to Russia since the invasion of Ukraine.
Beijing, which has strengthened its ties with Moscow in recent years in a common opposition to the West, presents itself as a neutral party in the conflict in Ukraine.
“At the invitation of President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to Russia from March 20 to 22,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.
It will be a “trip for friendship and peace,” the ministry added.
Xi Jinping “will have an in-depth exchange of views with President Putin on relations bilateral relations and major international and regional issues of common interest,” said a spokesman for Chinese diplomacy, Wang Wenbin.
“Changes unseen in a century are happening right now, and the world has entered a new period of turmoil,” Wang told a regular press briefing.
The Kremlin confirmed following this visit.
The two leaders “will discuss deepening the comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation between Russia and China” especially “on the international scene”, the Russian presidency said in a statement, adding that “important bilateral documents would be signed
Beijing-Moscow relations were tumultuous during the Cold War, but the two neighbors have grown significantly closer in recent years decades to form a common front against the influence of the United States.
Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin had met in September on the sidelines of a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Uzbekistan.
During this first meeting since the start of the war in Ukraine in February 2022, they showed their desire to support each other and strengthen their ties in the midst of a crisis with Westerners.
The Russian president had returned a few months earlier to Beijing on the occasion of the Winter Olympics. The two leaders had then proclaimed their friendship “without limit”. A few days later, Vladimir Putin launched his troops against Ukraine.
The announcement of Xi Jinping's trip to Russia comes the day after a telephone conversation between Chinese and Ukrainian foreign ministers.
“China fears that the crisis will worsen and become out of control,” Chinese Minister Qin Gang told his interlocutor, according to a statement released by his ministry.
“She hopes all parties will keep calm, show restraint, resume peace talks as soon as possible and return to the path of a political settlement.”
China released a 12-point document last month urging Moscow and Kyiv to hold peace talks.
The text also opposes any use of nuclear weapons and calls for respect for the territorial integrity of all countries – also implying that of Ukraine, part of whose territory is under Russian control.
This document had been greeted with caution by Westerners because China has never publicly condemned Russia.
“The question of whether (China) is really stepping up its efforts to play a peacemaking role [ …] will depend on the content of what she proposes during meetings with Russian and Ukrainian leaders,” Ja-Ian Chong, an expert on Chinese foreign policy at the National University of Singapore, told AFP. p>
Since the beginning of the conflict, the Chinese president has also never spoken with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.
But according to the American daily “The Wall Street Journal”, a conversation could take place after Xi Jinping's visit to Moscow.
Last month, the Ukrainian president expressed his wish to exchange with his Chinese counterpart.
“I intend to meet Xi Jinping. This will be important for global security. China respects territorial integrity and must do everything to ensure that Russia leaves the territory of Ukraine,” Zelensky said.