EU’s top envoy calls summit with China’s Xi a ‘deaf dialog’

The European Union’s foreign policy chief described a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping as a “deaf dialog,” casting doubt on how much cooperation the Asian nation will offer to end the war in Ukraine.

“China wanted to set aside our difference on Ukraine,” said Josep Borrell, who accompanied European leaders in talks with Xi last week. “They didn’t want to talk about Ukraine. They didn’t want to talk about human rights and other issues, and instead focused on the positive things.”

Borrell told the European Parliament on Tuesday that “the European side made clear that this compartmentalization is not feasible, not acceptable,” adding: “For us the war in Ukraine is a defining moment for whether we live in a world governed by rules or by force.”

The comments stand in contrast to China’s take on the April 1 video summit between Xi and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel. A Chinese summary said the EU “expressed its desire for candid exchanges with China to sustain the good momentum of EU-China relations.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Wednesday at a regular press briefing that the talks were “very successful” and that Borrell’s views were “not based on facts.”

“What the EU should do is to follow through on the consensus and spirit of the meeting between Chinese and EU leaders to advance bilateral ties rather than making irresponsible remarks,” Zhao said.

Von der Leyen said in the discussions that Brussels expected Beijing to “at least do everything not to interfere in any kind” with sanctions it has leveled against Moscow for the attack on Ukraine. Michel said at a news conference that “we called on China to help end the war.”

China has come under pressure from the US and others to take a clear line against the invasion, as its diplomats and state media play down civilian casualties and cast Russian President Vladimir Putin as a victim of NATO expansion. While Xi has spoken to key players in the dispute including Putin and US President Joe Biden, he has yet to talk to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

In the summit, Xi said the current situation risks erasing the benefits of global economic cooperation and that Beijing and Brussels should commit to preventing spillover from the crisis, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Borrell said the EU urged China to “use its influence with Russia to reach an immediate cease-fire and to support humanitarian corridors,” and added that any attempt to help Moscow evade sanctions would have “serious consequences.”

“The China side stuck to the general statements of wishing to see peace, ‘we are peaceful people, we don’t invade the others,’” he said, “while avoiding specific commitments or avoiding also any kind of blame on Russia.” Bloomberg News

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