By Andrew Thornebrooke
The United States may be open to a negotiated peace between Ukraine and Russia following a phone call between Ukraine’s president and China’s communist leadership about the ongoing invasion and the possibility of peace in Eastern Europe.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accepted a call on April 26 with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping.
The conversation was the first between the two leaders since Russia began its attempted conquest of Ukraine last year, which the CCP has largely helped to further through increased economic, diplomatic, and military support.
Zelenskyy described the call as “long and meaningful,” and said that a Ukrainian ambassador to communist China would help to improve bilateral ties between the two nations.
“I believe that this call, as well as the appointment of Ukraine’s ambassador to China, will give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations,” Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter.
US Supports China-Ukraine Talks
The White House said that it supports increased communications between Ukraine and China and hoped that the effort would help the Chinese side to better understand the devastation that has been wrought by Russia’s war of aggression.
“We welcome the news that there was a phone call between Zelenskyy and Xi,” said National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby during a press call on April 26.
“We think that’s a good thing.”
The White House has been encouraging China-Ukraine talks since March when the CCP first released a so-called peace plan, for which Ukraine had not been consulted and which falsely claimed NATO was responsible for the war.
Since then, the CCP has attempted to further position itself as a mediator in the conflict. However, this week’s phone call was the first time CCP leadership held a substantive dialogue with any Ukrainian officials.
Notably, the CCP has been pushing for a “negotiated settlement” to the conflict, which the United States has balked at given Zelenskyy’s demand that any peace be predicated on the return of all occupied Ukrainian territory, including Crimea, which Russia has occupied since its first invasion in 2014.
Washington’s resistance to such a plan may be shifting, however, at least so long as such a plan is approved by Ukrainian authorities.
“We want to see the war end,” Kirby said. “If it can’t end by Putin pulling his troops out, then it should end by negotiated settlement.
“If there’s going to be a negotiated peace, it’s got to be when President Zelenskyy is ready for it.”
To that end, Kirby said that any proposed peace plan would need to provide for a “just, sustainable, and credible” peace and not simply allow Russia to regroup and rearm for a third invasion of Ukraine.
Above all, he said, “Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity” must be respected.
“Whether this call is going to lead to some sort of meaningful peace movement … we just don’t know that right now,” Kirby said.
“To the degree that Zelenskyy and Xi were able to do that in this call … that’s a good thing.”