UKrai President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Chinese leader Xi Jinping to hold direct talks, noting that Beijing has not responded to such demands since Russia invaded his country about five months ago.
The last time the pair spoke was a year ago, Zelensky told the South China Morning Post in an interview published on Thursday. After Russia’s February 24 invasion, he said the Ukrainian side had “officially asked for a conversation” with Xi but had not received a response. Such a dialogue, he added, “would be useful.”
The leader of the world’s second-largest economy refused to condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine and declared “boundless” friendship with Putin weeks before the invasion, making any conversation with Zelensky potentially awkward. Xi and Putin spoke for several days after the war began, and the Russian leader called Xi on the latter’s birthday in June.
Dialogue between Ukraine and China has been limited to lower-level diplomatic exchanges, such as that between Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Ukrainian counterpart.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had been in communication with “all stakeholders on the Ukraine crisis” at a briefing in Beijing on Thursday. Asked if there had been direct talks between the two presidents, she said China and Ukraine were communicating “through diplomatic channels”.
Although Beijing claims to respect Ukraine’s right to sovereignty, it voted vs a UN court order in March for Moscow to immediately suspend military operations, refused to join a US-led sanctions campaign to isolate Putin’s regime and framed Washington as the “culprit” of the conflict to promote the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the east .
Zelensky, 44, said there was still room for China to play a positive role in ending the conflict.
“China, as a big and powerful country, can come down and put the Russian Federation in a certain place,” he told the Post, adding that his countrymen share fundamental values with the Chinese.
“Everybody loves their kids,” he said. “Everyone wants to live in peace.”
—With help from Colum Murphy
More must-see stories from TIME