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China calls for ceasefire in Ukraine, opposes use of nuclear weapons

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BEIJING, Feb 24 (PTI): China, a close Russian ally, on Friday called for a ceasefire to end the Ukraine war and open peace talks, even as it struck a nuanced stand of respecting Ukraine’s sovereignty and Moscow’s legitimate security concerns while expressing its firm opposition to the use of nuclear and biological weapons.

China — which along with India abstained from a vote on Thursday on the UN General Assembly resolution underscoring the need to reach, a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine — issued a 12-point position paper here outlining its stand on the Ukraine war amid its efforts to continue to maintain close ties with Moscow.

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The paper was released shortly after the visit of top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi’s visit to Moscow on February 22 during which he met Russian President Vladimir Putin reaffirming that the “China-Russia relationship has stood the test of the drastic changes in the world landscape and become mature and tenacious, standing as firm as Mount Tai”, a sacred mountain in China.

Beijing so far has not condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and continues to maintain close political, trade and military ties with Moscow.

Significant points of China’s stand in its position paper were a call for “ceasing hostilities” and global support for the resumption of direct peace talks between Russia and Ukraine to end the war, respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and Moscow’s legitimate security concerns and Beijing opposition for threat or use of nuclear and biological weapons.

“Ceasing hostilities. Conflict and war benefit no one. All parties must stay rational and exercise restraint, avoid fanning the flames and aggravating tensions, and prevent the crisis from deteriorating further or even spiralling out of control,” the paper released by the Foreign Ministry here said.

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It called for direct dialogue between Russia and Ukraine “as quickly as possible”.

The 12-point document is part of Beijing’s latest efforts to present itself as a neutral peace broker, as it struggles to balance its “no-limits” friendship with Moscow and fraying relations with the West as the war drags on.

Without directly mentioning Ukraine, it called for effectively upholding the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries but at the same time reiterated that the security of all countries should be respected in an apparent reference to Russia’s concerns over US and NATO’s growing political and military influence over Ukraine endangering its security.

“The sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries must be effectively upheld,” it said.

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At the same time, “the security of a country should not be pursued at the expense of others. The security of a region should not be achieved by strengthening or expanding military blocs,” China’s paper said.

Significantly, China has explicitly opposed the use of nuclear weapons in the Ukraine war.

Frequent references to Russia’s nuclear arsenal by Putin in his speeches were seen as a threat by the US and NATO in the Ukraine war.

“Nuclear weapons must not be used and nuclear wars must not be fought. The threat or use of nuclear weapons should be opposed”, the Chinese paper said.

At the UNGA emergency special session on Ukraine where China was among the 32 countries which abstained, its envoy Dai Bing said facilitation of a ceasefire is a top priority and the door to a political solution cannot be closed.

“The lessons of history tell us that crises, however deep, can ultimately be resolved peacefully. No matter how difficult it is, the door to a political solution cannot be closed,” said Dai, charge d’affaires of China’s permanent mission was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

“We support Russia and Ukraine in moving towards each other, resuming direct dialogue as soon as possible, bringing their legitimate concerns into the negotiation, setting out feasible options, and giving a chance to an early end of the crisis and the rebuilding of peace,” he said.

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