French President Emmanuel Macron called on his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to "bring Russia to its senses" over Ukraine and urged him not to deliver weapons to Moscow.
The French president, who arrived on Wednesday for a three-day state visit, has made clear he is seeking to dissuade China from supporting Russia's invasion of its neighbour.
"I know I can count on you to bring Russia to its senses and everyone to the negotiating table," Macron told Xi during a bilateral meeting in Beijing.
During the talks, Xi expressed an intention to speak with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky when the time comes, according to a French diplomat.
Xi recently went to Moscow to reaffirm his alliance with Vladimir Putin -- framed as an anti-Western front -- but has not yet spoken on the phone with Zelensky.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, who is accompanying Macron on his visit, welcomed Xi's stated willingness to hold talks with Zelensky.
"It was interesting to hear that President Xi reiterated his willingness to speak when conditions and time are right," she told a press conference in Beijing following talks with the Chinese leader.
The French head of state, meanwhile, "pressed Xi Jinping not to deliver anything to Russia that would be used for its war against Ukraine", added the diplomat, following Western claims that Beijing could be mulling arms shipments to support Russia's war.
Those comments were echoed by von der Leyen, who said she had warned Chinese leaders Thursday that arms shipments to Russia would "significantly harm" relations.
- 'Major role' -
Macron has said during his trip that Beijing can play a "major role" in finding a path to peace in the conflict and welcomed China's "willingness to commit to a resolution".
Moscow poured cold water on prospects of a Chinese mediation, insisting on Thursday it had "no choice" but to press on with its offensive in Ukraine.
"Undoubtedly, China has a very effective and commanding potential for mediation," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
"But the situation with Ukraine is complex, so far there are no prospects for a political settlement," he said.
But Macron's visit to China, his first since 2019, comes as Western pressure mounts on Beijing to help push for peace in Ukraine.
Beijing is officially neutral, and Xi has never condemned the Russian invasion.
Macron said he wants to "be a voice that unites Europe" over Ukraine, and that coming to China with von der Leyen serves to "underline the consistency of this approach".
Von der Leyen said in a Thursday meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang that relations between the EU and China had grown "complex in recent years".
Macron's talks with Xi were followed by a trilateral meeting with von der Leyen, after which the French and Chinese leaders held a state dinner.
Macron will travel to Guangzhou in southern China to meet students on Friday, taking with him a broad delegation of top politicians, business leaders and even celebrities, including composer Jean-Michel Jarre.
- Taiwan tensions -
The visit comes in the face of mounting Chinese pressure on Taiwan, with the island's President Tsai Ing-wen meeting US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California on Wednesday.
Beijing baulks at any official contact between Taipei and the rest of the world, insisting there is only "one China".
China had repeatedly warned both sides that the meeting should not take place and deployed an aircraft carrier near Taiwan hours before the talks went ahead.
Three additional warships were detected in waters separating the island from China, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defence said on Thursday.
- 'Strongly interconnected' -
Macron's trip has an important economic component as well, with the French leader keen to firm up a crucial trade partnership.
Macron is accompanied by more than 50 French business leaders, including top bosses of Airbus, EDF and Veolia.
Airbus announced Thursday that it would open a second final assembly line in China that will double its production capacity in the country, with the framework for the deal signed by CEO Guillaume Faury in Beijing.
Asia has become a key market for both Airbus and its US rival Boeing as demand for air travel climbs with an expanding middle class.
"It makes a lot of sense for us, as the Chinese market keeps growing, to be serving local for the Chinese airlines, and probably some other customers in the region," Faury said.
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