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French President Emmanuel Macron turns to China's Xi Jinping to push for Russia-Ukraine peace talks

Macron urges Xi to reason with Russia
France's Macron asks China's Xi Jinping to reason with Russia over Ukraine war 04:43

Paris — On a state visit to China, French President Emmanuel Macron appealed to his counterpart Xi Jinping to help push Russia toward a peace agreement with Ukraine.

"I know I can count on you to bring Russia back to its senses," he told Chinese President Xi.

While Beijing's official position on the war is one of neutrality, the Chinese leader has made no secret of his support for Russian President Vladimir Putin, even visiting him in Moscow recently. France and other Western nations hope Beijing can use those close ties to help facilitate peace talks.

China France
French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping take part in a Franco-Chinese business council meeting in Beijing, Thursday, April 6, 2023.  Ludovic Marin / AP

In a phone call ahead of his state visit, Macron and U.S. President Biden agreed there was "a common desire to engage China to help accelerate the end of the war in Ukraine and to participate in building a lasting peace in the region." 

The Kremlin, however, rejected any idea of Chinese mediation on Thursday, saying it's not the time for a political solution in Ukraine.

The European Union has said it would welcome Chinese help, but rejected the idea of Beijing being the mediator because of its support for Russia.

After their meeting in Beijing, Macron and Xi issued a joint call for peace talks to end the conflict in Ukraine "as soon as possible." The two also warned against any use of nuclear weapons in the conflict.

Evolution of Russia and China's relationship since the Cold War 05:40

Ukraine is Macron's top priority during this visit, but also high on his list is renewing commercial ties between the two countries as China continues lifting its COVID-19 restrictions. Some 50 French business leaders are in the delegation accompanying the French president.

More than two dozen accords were signed, most in the energy and transport sectors, but also in cosmetics, finance, and agriculture. 

Climate change was also on the agenda for Macron as he met with Xi and other top Chinese officials.

Environmental issues are close to Macron's heart, and he went to Beijing hoping to persuade China — the world's biggest consumer of coal, and the biggest importer of wood from endangered forests — to change its ways.

French officials see this visit as the perfect opportunity to "reset" relations with China. This seems to have meant avoiding some thorny subjects in the hope of making progress on others. When asked if the president would raise the issue of Taiwan, French officials would only say that France's position has not changed but that it was up to the Chinese to raise the subject during the visit if they so wished.

Macron is also unlikely to volunteer a conversation on the controversial social platform TikTok, amid calls in France for it to be banned for use by public servants, as it has been in the U.S. and some other Western countries.

 Next year will mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries, and a program of events is being drawn up that will focus on cultural and tourism links.

France is the first-choice European destination for Chinese tourists, and that lucrative business was badly hit by China's long-lived COVID travel restrictions. Numbers have started to creep up and French tour operators and hotels are hopeful this summer will see a strong return of Chinese visitors.

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