EU pushes China to a peak over stance on Russian-Ukrainian war

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made a statement in Brussels.

Kenzo Tripuillard | AFP | Getty Images

Sources familiar with the matter told CNBC ahead of a virtual meeting between Brussels and Beijing on Friday that the European Union wants to push China to be neutral in its stance on Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine.

Western officials fear the role China could play in the war between Russia and Ukraine. Chinese authorities have so far refused to fully condemn Russia’s unwarranted invasion of their neighbor – after abstaining on a UN Security Council resolution condemning Moscow.

China has also backed Moscow’s complaints about NATO expansion, as have US officials, saying Russia has asked China for military and economic support, which the Kremlin and Beijing have denied.

European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will meet with Chinese Premier Li Kcheqiang on Friday at 10 a.m. Brussels time and then with Chinese President Xi Jinping at 2 p.m.

The aim of the summit is “to ensure China’s neutrality so that Russia does not help,” an EU official, who declined to be named due to sensitivity, told CNBC on Tuesday. discussions.

The same official said EU-China economic ties and recent trade disputes could come up during the talks, but “the focus is definitely on Russia.”

A second EU official familiar with the talks told CNBC the summit was “a turning point in EU-China relations.” “They are [China] And joining Russia would, of course, have a very negative impact on relations with the European Union,” he said.

A third EU official, who did not wish to be named, said the initial aim of the summit was to announce “small initiatives”. “But things have changed,” the same official said, adding that “the main message should be that if they bypass China, there will be consequences.” [western] Penalty”.

Earlier this month, Estonian Foreign Minister Eva Maria Lemets told CNBC that if China were to help Russia invade Ukraine, the West should discuss sanctions against Beijing.

In addition, several EU heads of state last week urged China to use its influence to stop the war in Ukraine.

In an interview with CNBC last week, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said: “China [the] The most important countries, which can play a critical role in the peace process, have great influence, great influence, so we are all waiting. »

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told CNB’s Steve Sedgwick on Tuesday: “We have repeatedly asked all our international partners and even those with whom we do not agree to reach a solution. peaceful and diplomatic. Even China, as well as Turkey and many other countries, have decided that this will happen. ” He can contribute to this effort.

“It is very important to be involved in this effort so that we can demonstrate it together [Russian President Vladimir] Di Maio added that a diplomatic solution was a better option for him than continuing this war. »

EU relations with China have been intertwined in recent years.

The two signed an investment deal at the end of 2020 – just before US President Joe Biden arrived at the White House. However, just two months later, the European Union decided to freeze the deal, citing fears of human rights abuses in China.

Recently, the European Commission launched a procedure against China. The World Trade Organization has alleged discriminatory trade practices against EU country Lithuania.

“Friday’s summit was meant to be an opportunity to bring back a year of tensions between the EU and China and create new ground for cooperation. However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s refusal to condemn the Moscow attack have dampened European expectations for the future,” Eurasia analysts said.

They added that “Europe’s disappointment with China over Ukraine, as well as the strongest transatlantic force in more than two decades, will encourage closer cooperation between the EU and the United States. against Beijing’s decision”.

Transatlantic relations have improved since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. After their foreign policy disagreements over the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in the summer of 2021 and the controversial US-Australian submarine deal, this has angered France; There now seems to be more cooperation between Washington and Brussels.

They coordinated the sanctions against Russia, and the United States is currently working to help the European Union become more independent of Russian energy.

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