April 19. 2024. 9:40

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Scholz urges China not to arm Russia as US explores sanctions


German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday (2 March) urged China not to send weapons to help Russia’s war in Ukraine and instead asked Beijing to exert pressure on Moscow to pull back its forces.

In a speech to the German parliament, Scholz said it was disappointing that Beijing had refrained from condemning the Russian invasion, though he welcomed its efforts towards nuclear de-escalation.

China has denied any intention to arm Russia and one of its senior diplomats told the United Nations on 23 February that “sending weapons will not bring peace” but add “fuel to the fire”.

Scholz’s remarks underscored how the international response to the war in Ukraine highlighted global divisions, as China and India have refrained from condemning the Russian invasion or joining the West in imposing sanctions.

The divisions have also reared their head at a series of G20 meetings in India that descended into wrangling over the war. Germany has said it planned to counter Russian “propaganda” at this week’s talks, while Russia on Thursday accused Western countries of turning the event into a “farce”.

India PM Modi calls for common ground on global issues at G20 meeting

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on foreign ministers from the G20 group on Thursday (2 March) to find common ground on global issues as he inaugurated a meeting that looks set to be dominated by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The US is sounding out close allies about the possibility of imposing new sanctions on China if Beijing provides military support to Russia for its war in Ukraine, sources told Reuters this week.

US seeks allies’ backing for possible China sanctions over Ukraine war

The United States is sounding out close allies about the possibility of imposing new sanctions on China if Beijing provides military support to Russia for its war in Ukraine, according to four US officials and other sources.

“My message to Beijing is clear: use your influence in Moscow to urge the withdrawal of Russian troops,” Scholz said, to resounding applause from lawmakers. “And don’t deliver any weapons to the aggressor Russia.”

The US consultations on sanctions, which are still at a preliminary stage, are intended to drum up support from a range of countries, especially those in the wealthy Group of Seven (G7), to coordinate support for any possible restrictions.

It was not clear what specific sanctions Washington will propose.

China’s role in the Russia-Ukraine war is expected to be among the topics discussed when US President Joe Biden meets Scholz at the White House on Friday.

Scholz’s blunt message to Beijing comes at a time of heightened tensions between the US and China and as Germany is also reassessing what kind of relationship it wants with China, hitherto a vital export market for German goods.

Talking to Ukraine

For its part, China has issued a 12-point paper calling for a comprehensive ceasefire that was met with scepticism in the West. While welcoming Beijing’s stance on nuclear de-escalation, Scholz said “One can rightly expect China to discuss its ideas with the main stakeholders – with the Ukrainians and with President (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy.”

Key takeaways from China’s Ukraine position paper

China released a new position paper outlining its stance on the Ukraine conflict on Friday (24 February), the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion.

Zelenskyy has expressed a desire to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping but it is not clear whether such a meeting would take place.

As the war grinds on into its second year with no sign of ending, Scholz also offered a glimpse of how the West might see a future peace.

He said Germany was in talks with allies about giving security guarantees to Ukraine, but he did not say what form they could take, and added they would only work if Ukraine prevailed in the war.

The war in Ukraine has prompted Germany to ramp up defence spending and overhaul its dilapidated military. While facing down some jeers and laughter from lawmakers about his plans to strengthen the army, Scholz promised to help the German defence industry with long-term contracts and down-payments in order to speed up production.

Scholz said there “cannot and will not be a peace agreement over the heads of the Ukrainian people”.

“One also does not achieve peace, when one shouts “never again war” here in Berlin, and at the same time demands that all weapons deliveries must be stopped.”