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Von der Leyen warns Xi not to arm Russia with Chinese weapons

The Chinese leader also said he would call Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy ‘when conditions and time are right.’

APRIL 6, 2023

Xi said he would give Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a call when the time was right | POOL photo by Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images BRUSSELS — Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday she warned China’s leader Xi Jinping not to send weapons to Russia, or it would “significantly” affect his country’s ties with the EU.

In a vague yet unprecedented stance, Xi said he would give Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a call when the time was right, according to the European Commission president after a meeting in Beijing with her Chinese counterpart.

“We … count on China not to provide any military equipment, directly or indirectly, to Russia, because we all know arming the aggressor would be against international law,” von der Leyen told the media after her meeting with Xi. “This would indeed significantly harm the relationship between the European Union and China.”

“I did emphasize in our talks today that I stand firmly behind President Zelenskyy’s peace plan … It was interesting to hear that President Xi reiterated his willingness to speak when conditions and time are right,” she said, referring to her suggestion to Xi that he call Zelenskyy. “I think this is a positive element.”

Xi has been a notable exception among world leaders who have called or visited the Ukrainian president, and has instead made multiple visits or contacts with Russian leader Vladimir Putin since the war started last year. In her pre-departure call with Zelenskyy, von der Leyen said he once again expressed his wish to speak directly with Xi.

She called on Beijing to use its “influence in a friendship that is built [over] decades” to “really exert” the responsibility and be “very clear in the messaging” with Moscow.

Apart from Ukraine, von der Leyen also brought up the sensitive issue of Taiwan in the meeting with Xi, as tensions are on the rise over possible Chinese movements regarding the self-governing island in response to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles.

“Stability in the Taiwan Strait is of paramount importance,” von der Leyen said about her Taiwan discussion with Xi. “Nobody should unilaterally change the status quo by force in this region. The threat [of] the use of force to change the status quo is unacceptable.”

Xi, in reply, sent a stern warning over interference in Taiwan affairs.

“The Taiwan issue is at the center of the core interests of China’s,” Xi said. “If anyone wants to make a fuss about ‘one China,’ the Chinese government and people will never agree. If anyone counts on China to make concessions … over Taiwan, that’s an illusion.”


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