Xi hears from Zelensky, Stefanini (Ispi): “Good signal, but still a long way to go”

He indicates “activism” on the part of Beijing, “it may be important in terms of relaunching diplomacy, but it is extremely premature to think it could lead to the end of the war” in Ukraine. “A phone call does not make China a neutral country.”

“It is a good sign, but it is only the first step of a diplomatic journey that will be quite long”, it is an indication of “activism” on the part of China which “may be important in terms of relaunching diplomacy, but it is extremely premature to think it could lead to the end of the war”. Stefano Stefanini, ambassador, former permanent representative of Italy to NATO, now Senior Advisor of ISPI, reasoned with Adnkronos after the phone call between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, the first for 14 months, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a talk that comes a month after Xi’s visit to Moscow by Kremlin head Vladimir Putin.

Stefanini speaks of a “signal” which shows that the People’s Republic – which in recent weeks has promoted its 12-point initiative for “peace” – “will finally take seriously its possible role as intermediary in the Ukrainian war” . But, he points out, a telephone call “does not make China a ‘neutral’ country” because if “on the one hand there is a telephone conversation, on the other there is a very close relationship with Russia”, there is a “limitless friendship” with Moscow that Beijing “wants to maintain”.

It is a “moderately positive sign in terms of the prospects for a relaunch of diplomacy on the Ukrainian crisis”, he remarked. If one thinks of a ceasefire, of a negotiation to end the conflict that has been going on since 24 February 2022, the Asian giant “is one of the few countries – he observes – that can have influence over Russia, as well as the United States and European countries can have it on Ukraine.”

“There is no indication that a short-term initiative will arise from the phone call”, underlines Stefanini after the “14-month silence in (Chinese) contacts with Ukraine” during which, however, “they had close contacts with Russia , until Xi’s state visit to Moscow” last March. And, to date, “at this time the prospect always remains of a long overdue Ukrainian counter-offensive, after which there will hopefully be a diplomatic relaunch”, continues Stefanini after the phone call between Xi and Zelensky, in which – he highlights – ” we don’t know what they said to each other” because the Ukrainian president “expressed himself positively” after the meeting, “but he was careful not to say what they said to each other”.

Moscow, through the Foreign Ministry, immediately praised “the readiness of the Chinese side to make efforts to establish the negotiating process” and took the opportunity to return to condemn what it defines as Kiev’s “rejection” of any “sensate initiative aimed at a political and diplomatic solution to the Ukrainian crisis”. “We don’t know to what extent there were consultations between Russia and China before the phone call – comments Stefanini – And it is very likely that Russia was informed that the phone call would take place, not necessarily of what Xi would have said to Zelensky”. And Kiev’s accusations aside, Russia is continuing what the Kremlin has launched under the name of a “special military operation”.

“To change the course of the war and in particular to stop the expected Ukrainian counter-offensive, Xi should have put on the phone call at the very least a Russian withdrawal from the occupied territories and I very much doubt that he did that or that he had a mandate from Moscow to to do so – says Stefanini – Ukraine’s declared objective remains the recovery of the country’s territorial integrity on international borders and to desist from the counter-offensive it should at least have some offers in this sense”.

Meanwhile, the bilateral conference on the reconstruction of Ukraine has just ended in Rome. And, concludes the ambassador, it is “important to continue to support” the country “militarily because there is an ongoing war”, but when the conflict ends “it will become fundamental” to ensure Kiev “all the help it needs to the reconstruction”.