March 2. 2024. 3:33

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Spain’s Sanchez prepares for China’s visit with Ukraine high on agenda

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez will visit China this week to explore how Beijing could play a more prominent role in ending the war in Ukraine, as relations with the world’s biggest economy pose no major hurdles.

Sánchez will be the first Spanish prime minister to visit China since President Xi Jinping debuted his third five-year term. He will also be the first EU leader to meet the Chinese leader since the latter met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow two weeks ago.

Given the lack of major hurdles in Sino-Spanish ties, as confirmed by China’s Foreign Ministry ahead of the visit, Sanchez’s trip will likely focus on Russia’s war in Ukraine and China’s potential role as a mediator for peace.

But Sánchez will do that in his capacity as the head of Spain’s government and will not be acting as a spokesperson for the European Union as a whole, government sources said.

Chinese media has interpreted Sánchez’s visit, along with the one made in the coming weeks by French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, as a signal of Brussels’ support for China’s involvement in a Ukraine peace plan.

Spain soon taking over the six-month EU Council presidency will likely influence the meeting as observers will be watching to see if Sánchez can elicit concrete commitments from China’s president and whether the EU will warm to his peace proposals.

China has claimed impartiality about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but many Western observers believe Beijing de facto supports Moscow.

Xi’s visit to Spain in 2018 was one of the most notable moments in 50 years of diplomatic ties between both countries. China has been visited by every prime minister since the first high-level visit in modern times was carried out by King Juan Carlos I in 1978.

Relations hit a rocky patch in 2013 when a Spanish court used universal jurisdiction to indict former Chinese leaders Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin over alleged repression in Tibet, although the case was shelved the following year.

(Lorena Cantó | EFE/Beijing)