China’s envoy says ‘significant gap’ between Kyiv and Moscow on peace talks

Speaking to the media after his latest European tour, Li Hui expresses hope that both sides might come together.

Li Hui, China’s special envoy for Ukraine, has said there remained a “significant gap” between Moscow and Kyiv on peace talks to end the more than two-year-long war, although both agreed it was the best way to resolve the crisis.

Beijing has sought to position itself as a mediator in the conflict, releasing its own 12-point plan for a “political settlement” and holding several rounds of talks.

But while China insists it remains neutral, it has attracted criticism for deepening its relationship with Russia even after President Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Briefing media and diplomats in Beijing after his latest trip to Russia, Ukraine, France, Germany and Poland, Li said Kyiv and Moscow remained far apart.

But he said both recognised talks were the best way to resolve the crisis.

“At the end, they all agree that the war must be resolved through negotiations rather than guns,” Li said.

All parties, he said, “recognise the danger of the current situation continuing to deteriorate”.

“And they all agree with China’s call for the situation to cool down,” he added, saying they “expect China to play a more constructive role”.

China Special Envoy for Eurasian Affairs Li Hui. He's speaking at a press conference. A work of Chinese calligraphy is behind him.
Chinese Special Envoy for Eurasian Affairs Li Hui expressed some optimism that Ukraine and Russia might at some point make progress towards peace talks [Joe Cash/Reuters]

Kyiv has expressed hope that Beijing will attend a peace conference it is organising in Switzerland in a few weeks to discuss its proposals for a negotiated peace.

Moscow has not been invited to the event and has said the effort will fail without its participation.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s 10-point peace plan, first announced in November 2022, includes a demand that Russia withdraw all its troops from Ukrainian territory and the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Moscow currently occupies about 17 percent of Ukraine. It has declared the annexation of four regions of Ukraine in the south and east, in addition to Crimea, which it invaded and annexed in 2014.

Its Ministry of Defence has announced incremental advances on the 1,000km front line this week, and on Thursday, it launched a major missile attack on Kyiv, the first of its kind in 44 days.

Li told reporters that China stood “with open arms” to accept anything conducive to de-escalation and negotiation.

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