Home Europe China Pushing Alternative Plan On Ukraine Before Peace Summit

China Pushing Alternative Plan On Ukraine Before Peace Summit

Peace Summit
Stephan Grieder, Commander of the Nidwalden Cantonal Police; Cantonal Councillor Karin Kayser-Frutschi, Nidwalden Justice and Security Director; Swiss President Viola Amherd; Swiss Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis; and Major General Daniel Keller of the Swiss Armed Forces attend the Swiss government's press conference to brief media ahead of its June 15-16 peace summit for Ukraine, in Bern, Switzerland, June 10, 2024. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy

With all eyes set on the Peace Summit on Ukraine in Switzerland this weekend, the moves by China has created unrest in diplomatic circles.

China is not attending the summit on a peace plan for Ukraine, Instead, it is reportedly trying to lobby with governments to push its alternative plan, 10 diplomats said. A diplomat described Beijing’s campaign a “subtle boycott” of the global meeting in Switzerland.

Ninety states and organisations have registered to take part in the summit on Saturday and Sunday in the alpine resort of Lucerne, The summit will seek to build support for Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s peace proposals, include the full withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.

Moscow, which was not invited to Lucerne, has dismissed the meeting as futile. China, which has close ties with Russia, says it will not attend the conference because it does not meet Beijing’s requirements, including the participation of Russia.

China and Russia proclaimed a “no limits” partnership just days before President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Russia’s smaller neighbour in February 2022. Beijing says it is neutral in the conflict and has not supplied Moscow with weapons or ammunition.

While explaining why it will not attend the summit, China has been trying to enlist developing nations to join the six-point peace plan it issued with Brazil last month.

The proposal calls for an international peace conference “held at a proper time that is recognised by both Russia and Ukraine, with equal participation of all parties as well as fair discussion of all peace plans.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has suggested that China could arrange such a conference. Putin has expressed support for China’s plan for a peaceful settlement of the crisis, saying Beijing had a full understanding of what lay behind it.

Forty-five countries have expressed support for the proposal, with more than two dozen either joining or “seriously considering” it, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said last week.

After China said it was not going to the Lucerne summit, Zelensky accused Beijing of helping Moscow undermine the meeting, an accusation China’s foreign ministry denied.

Ukraine, the United States and other Western governments had lobbied hard for China to attend the talks, as they seek legitimacy for the summit and a broad consensus on a roadmap to a future peace process.

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In conversations with developing nations, China has not overtly criticised the Swiss summit or directly asked countries to abstain, the Beijing-based diplomats told Reuters.

But one who was briefed on the outreach said Beijing has told developing nations the meeting would prolong the war, while two diplomats with direct knowledge of the matter said China has been telling Western nations that many developing countries are aligned with its views on the conference.

The diplomats asked not to be named because they were not authorised to discuss the sensitive matter with the media.

China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its lobbying effort. Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said last week: “China sincerely hopes that a peace conference will not turn into a platform used to create bloc confrontation. Not attending it does not mean not supporting peace.”

As the summit approaches, China has intensified its outreach through meetings with visiting foreign dignitaries, phone calls and messages to foreign missions on China’s WeChat platform, diplomats said.
Beijing’s special envoy for Eurasian affairs, Li Hui, last month visited Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and has met officials of developing countries at their embassies in Beijing, the diplomats said.

Reuters could not independently determine what impact China’s lobbying has had, but the number of registered participants at the Lucerne summit is down from the 107 that Zelenskiy’s office had said were confirmed by early June.

In Asia, U.S. allies the Philippines and Japan, as well as Thailand, Singapore and East Timor have confirmed their attendance. Malaysia has said it will abstain, as has Cambodia, which has close economic links to China. Cambodia’s Senate

President Hun Sen denied being pressured by Beijing to avoid the conference. Indonesia will send its ambassador in Bern. Vietnam has not made its position clear.

India has said that it will participate in the peace summit but a decision on the level of representation is under consideration.

(With Inputs from Reuters)