France Wants ‘Clear Message’ From China To Russia Over Ukraine War

Paris has, in contrast, become one of Kyiv's firmest backers, with Macron in February even refusing to rule out putting troops on the ground in Ukraine.

(FILE PHOTO) France’s President Emmanuel Macron gives a press conference during the NATO Summit in Vilnius on July 12, 2023. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)



France’s top diplomat said on Monday that Paris wants China to send “clear messages” to its strategic ally Russia over its war in Ukraine, after meetings with his counterpart in Beijing.

France and China have sought to strengthen ties in recent years and, during meetings in Paris in February, Foreign Minister Wang Yi told President Emmanuel Macron that Beijing appreciated his country’s “independent” stance.

But Paris has also sought to press Beijing on its ties with Moscow, which have only grown closer since the invasion of Ukraine.

While China says it is a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict, it has been criticised for refusing to condemn Moscow for its offensive.

Paris has, in contrast, become one of Kyiv’s firmest backers, with Macron in February even refusing to rule out putting troops on the ground in Ukraine.

Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said Monday that Beijing “plays a key role in… the respect of international law, including on Ukraine’s sovereignty, and therefore we are clearly expecting that China will send very clear messages to Russia”.

“We are convinced that there will be no lasting peace if it is not negotiated with the Ukrainians,” he told a press conference in Beijing, speaking alongside his Chinese counterpart Wang.

“There will be no security for Europeans if there is no peace in accordance with international law,” he continued.

“It is an essential issue for us, which is why France is determined to maintain a close dialogue with China,” he said.

– ‘Closeness’ –
Sejourne’s visit is the second to China by a French foreign minister in less than six months, following a trip by his predecessor Catherine Colonna in November.

On Monday afternoon he met with Premier Li Qiang at Beijing’s opulent Great Hall of the People, telling China’s number two official he wanted to discuss “global situations that are fracturing and dividing the world today”.

“I am thinking of the situation in the Middle East, but also in Ukraine,” he said.

Li said he was “very happy” to welcome the minister to Beijing.

“Our two countries have a long history and splendid civilisations,” Li said, hailing their shared “spirit of independence and autonomy”.

“This explains why China and France have a natural sense of closeness,” he said.

Macron also visited last April, receiving a rock star welcome at a university in southern China from hundreds of screaming students and fans.

But he faced accusations of cosying up to Beijing and sparked controversy by saying Europe shouldn’t be a “follower” of the United States in the event of conflict with China over Taiwan.

His foreign minister’s visit this week comes as part of events marking the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between France and China.

Sejourne will later in the day take part in the launch of the “Versailles and the Forbidden City” exhibition, where around 60 works of art and valuables from the palace can be viewed by the public until the end of June.

– ‘Derisking’ not ‘decoupling’ –
France’s efforts to improve ties with Beijing come as the EU seeks to shield itself from excessive reliance on China.

That “derisking” has emerged in recent months as a core pillar of the European bloc’s economic policy towards China, spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The term contrasts with the more drastic approach known as “decoupling” — pursued by some policymakers in the United States who aim to isolate China or cut all commercial ties with the country.

The EU increasingly views China as a “partner”, but also as “an economic competitor and systemic rival”, a report by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China said last month.

In Beijing on Monday, Sejourne said decoupling was not on the cards.

But, he said, an “economic rebalancing” was needed to ensure trade was “healthy and sustainable”.

Foreign Minister Wang, in turn, said he “appreciates” Sejourne’s rejection of decoupling.

“It is not possible to decouple from China, and decoupling from China is the biggest risk,” Wang said.

“I believe that it has been proved, and will continue to prove, that China is an opportunity and not a risk for Europe. Both sides are partners and not rivals.”