France on Wednesday asked China to make clear to Russia that Moscow is in an “impasse” in its war with Ukraine, as Beijing seeks to mediate in the conflict.

Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told a cabinet meeting that Beijing should urge Russia to “return to peace”, according to a post-cabinet press briefing.

“It is necessary for China to use its relations with Russia to make Russia understand better that it is at an impasse, and to tell Russia to come back to its senses,” she said.

The request comes after French President Emmanuel Macron visited China last month and sparked controversy by saying that Europe should not be a “follower” of either Washington or Beijing or get caught up in any escalation over the future of Taiwan.

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The remarks sparked much comment, including from German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius who called them “unfortunate”, adding: “We have never been in danger of becoming or being a vassal of the United States.”

Beijing announced on Monday that Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang would visit Germany, France and Norway this week, as China seeks a mediator role in the Ukraine conflict.

China has sought to portray itself as a neutral party in Russia’s war with its neighbour, with President Xi Jinping last month holding his first call with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky since Moscow’s invasion.

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But recent comments by China’s ambassador to France questioning the sovereignty of ex-Soviet states threw its neutral stance into question, and Beijing’s 12-point position paper on ending the conflict was met with scepticism by the United States and NATO.

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