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BRUSSELS (AP) – China on Friday renewed its criticism of Western sanctions against Russia as top European Union officials sought assurances from Beijing that it would not help Moscow evade economic measures imposed in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Chinese foreign ministry also blamed the war in Ukraine, at least in part, on the United States for pushing to expand NATO’s military alliance closer to Russia’s borders. Twenty-one of the 27 countries of the EU are also NATO members.
During a virtual summit, European Council President Charles Michel, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell asked for signals from Chinese President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang that Beijing would help end the war. end in Ukraine.
“China disapproves of solving problems through sanctions, and we are even more opposed to unilateral sanctions and long-term jurisdiction that have no basis in international law,” said Zhao Lijian, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during a daily briefing during their meeting.
Zhao said that when it comes to Ukraine, Beijing will not be forced to “take sides or take a simplistic friend-or-enemy approach. Above all, we must resist Cold War thinking and confrontation with the bloc.”
“As the guilty and leading instigator of the Ukraine crisis, the US has led NATO to undertake five rounds of eastward expansion in the last two decades after 1999,” he said, adding that NATO membership nearly doubled from 16 to 30 countries, pushing “Russia against the wall step by step.”
China says it will not take sides in the conflict, but it has declared a “no borders” partnership with Russia and has refused to condemn the invasion. Beijing routinely reinforces Russian disinformation about the conflict and does not call it an invasion or war in line with Russian practice.
In a press release after an initial summit session, Li was quoted as affirming the importance of ties between China and the EU, saying he hoped the two “remain open to each other, steadily expand market access, protect fair competition and promote trade liberalization.” and promote and facilitate investment.”
“China hopes that the EU will also provide a healthy business environment for Chinese companies that invest and develop in Europe,” said Li.
Ahead of the summit, EU officials said they would look for signs that Beijing is willing to cooperate in ending the war. The meeting comes amid mounting negative sentiment within the bloc, fueled by China’s aggressive foreign policy and trade practices.
“The international community, especially China and the EU, have a mutual responsibility to use their joint influence and diplomacy to end the Russian war in Ukraine and the accompanying humanitarian crisis,” Michel tweeted.
Underlying the EU’s expectations of China is the possibility of sanctions against Chinese companies that undermine measures against Russia. EU officials point out that 13.7% of China’s total trade is done with the bloc of 27 countries, and 12% with the United States, compared to just 2.4% with Russia.
Officials said they also want to highlight the impact the war is having on fertilizer availability and global energy and food prices, which are hitting the poorest countries in Africa. and the Middle East most difficult.
Other topics include China’s travel ban on MEPs; Beijing’s economic boycott of EU member Lithuania for its Taiwanese relations; the fate of a stalled investment agreement; and civil and political rights under the authoritarian regime of the Communist Party in China.
Beijing has dismissed European criticism as biased and driven by an anti-Chinese agenda pursued by its main global rival, the United States.
Beijing also sanctioned some European Union lawmakers last year after the EU, Britain, Canada and the United States imposed coordinated sanctions against officials in China for human rights violations in the far west of the Xinjiang region.
The European Parliament responded by saying it will not ratify a much-anticipated business investment deal as long as sanctions remain in place.
Rights groups have also urged the EU to be more assertive with China over the repression in Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong and elsewhere and the persecution of Chinese dissidents, including Sakharov Prize winner Ilham Tohti and Sino-Swedish publisher Gui Minhai†
Moritsugu reported from Beijing.
Follow all AP stories about developments in the Russian war against Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.