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Germany FM urges China to tell Russia to stop war

Annalena Baerbock says 'no other country has more influence on Russia than China'.

3 minute read
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang attend a joint press conference at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, April 14. Photo: Reuters
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang attend a joint press conference at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, April 14. Photo: Reuters

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock urged Beijing Friday to ask "the Russian aggressor to stop the war" in Ukraine, saying "no other country has more influence on Russia than China".

Speaking after a meeting with her Chinese counterpart Qin Gang in Beijing, Baerbock said she had also expressed concerns about human rights issues and warned of the dangers of escalating tensions with Taiwan.

Her visit to the Chinese capital comes a week after that of French President Emmanuel Macron and the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, who also urged Beijing to play a greater role in resolving the crisis.

"It is good that China has signalled its commitment to a solution but I have to say frankly that I wonder why the Chinese position so far does not include a call on the aggressor Russia to stop the war," Baerbock said.

China has positioned itself as a neutral mediator throughout the conflict, but its refusal to condemn the invasion and a recent trip to Moscow by President Xi Jinping have led Western powers to accuse it of favouring its traditional ally Russia.

Qin said on Friday that China believed "the only way to resolve the Ukraine crisis is to promote peace and talks".

"Territory is indivisible, and security is also indivisible," he said.

"Without recognition of the security interests of a particular party, crises and conflicts are inevitable," he added.

After Qin and Baerbock met, China announced that Defence Minister Li Shangfu would visit Russia from Sunday at the invitation of his counterpart Sergei Shoigu.

The Russian ministry of defence said that the two would "discuss the state and prospects of bilateral cooperation in the defence sphere, as well as the issues of global and regional security".

Human rights 'curtailed' 

In a statement ahead of her trip, Baerbock said she was keen to strike the "right balance" with China, which she said "increasingly wants to shape the world order according to its own designs".

On Friday, she said she had told her counterpart that Germany was "concerned that the scope for civil society engagement in China is continuing to shrink and human rights are being curtailed".

On Monday, China sentenced two prominent human rights lawyers to more than a decade in jail.

Xu Zhiyong and fellow campaigner Ding Jiaxi were convicted of "subversion of state power" following closed-door trials.

Both were leading figures in the New Citizens' Movement, a civil rights group that called for constitutional reform and criticised government corruption.

The United Nations expressed concern over the sentencing and called it "at variance with international human rights law standards".

Baerbock directly referred to Xinjiang, referencing a UN report that detailed a string of rights violations against Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the province including "credible" allegations of widespread torture, arbitrary detention and violations of religious and reproductive rights.

Qin said the situation in Xinjiang was "not a human rights issue, but a problem of anti-violence and anti-groupings and anti-secession".

"Today, Xinjiang is socially stable, economically prosperous, ethnically united, religiously harmonious and the people live and work in peace and happiness," he said.

"Madame German Ambassador to China, you can visit Xinjiang anytime!"

Taiwan 'horror scenario' 

Baerbock also warned of a "horror scenario" if tensions in the Taiwan Strait increased, days after Beijing carried out military drills near the self-ruled island.

Beijing claims the self-ruled democratic island as its own territory and has vowed to take it by force if necessary.

But Baerbock warned that "a unilateral and especially violent change of the status quo would not be acceptable to us as Europeans".

"A military escalation in the Taiwan Strait... would be a horror scenario for the entire world," she added.

Her comments come after controversial comments by Macron after his trip last week raised hackles among some Western allies.

Macron said in an interview at the weekend that Europe should not be a "follower" of either Washington or Beijing and get caught up in any escalation over Taiwan.

Qin said he had discussed Taiwan with Baerbock and expressed that China hoped for a "peaceful reunification".

"China will resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and not an inch of China's territory will be lost," he added.