Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to make a state visit to France on May 6 and 7, Paris announced on Monday, with wars in Ukraine and the Middle East expected to be high on the agenda.

The visit to France, which will be followed by trips to Serbia and Hungary, marks the Chinese leader's first European tour since the coronavirus pandemic.

"This visit takes place on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries and follows on from the president's visit to Beijing and Guangzhou in April, 2023", President Emmanuel Macron's office said in a statement.

"Exchanges will focus on international crises, first and foremost the war in Ukraine and the situation in the Middle East, trade issues, scientific, cultural and sporting cooperation," the Elysee palace added.

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According to the statement, Xi and Macron will also discuss "joint actions to tackle global challenges, in particular the climate emergency, the protection of biodiversity and the financial situation of the most vulnerable countries."

"China looks forward to working with France to take this visit as an opportunity," said Lin Jian, spokesman of China's foreign ministry, also referring to Beijing's readiness to "make new contributions to world peace, stability, development and progress."

Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron will host Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan in Paris on May 6. On May 7, the two couples will travel to the southwestern department of Hautes-Pyrenees, where Macron travelled often as a child to see his grandmother.

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- 'Continue to engage China' -

France is preparing to host the Olympic Games this summer, and Macron has said he will do "everything possible" to have an Olympic truce during the Games.

The truce is a historic tradition that peace reigns during the Olympics.

Macron has said he will ask the Chinese president to help him in that aim when he visits Paris.

Macron has been seeking to dissuade China from supporting Russia's war against Ukraine. In 2023, the French president called on Xi to "bring Russia to its senses" over Ukraine and urged him not to deliver weapons to Moscow.

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But despite Western pressure, cooperation between China and Russia has only grown since the invasion of Ukraine.

"We must continue to engage China, which is objectively the international player with the greatest leverage to change Moscow's mind", said a French diplomatic source, while acknowledging that no immediate breakthrough should be expected.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he plans to visit China in May, his first planned trip abroad since re-election in March.

The West has viewed Russia and China with increased anxiety over the past two years as they boost military co-operation and seek to expand their global influence.

Beijing, which says it is a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict, has been criticised for refusing to condemn Moscow for its offensive.

In mid-April, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged Xi to press Russia to end its "senseless" war in Ukraine.

And last week, top US diplomat Antony Blinken urged China to curb support for Russia as he met with Xi for talks.

- 'Eastern opening' -

After visiting France, Xi is due to visit Serbia and Hungary. He will stop in Hungary on May 8-10, the central European country's government announced last week.

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Despite its small size, Hungary has attracted a flood of major Chinese projects in recent years, mostly related to battery and electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing.

The Hungarian government boasted about having around 15 billion euros worth of ongoing projects originating from the Asian country.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been championing an "Eastern opening" foreign policy since his return to power in 2010, seeking closer economic ties to China, Russia and other Asian countries.

Last October, the Hungarian premier was the sole EU leader to attend the summit for Xi's flagship Belt and Road initiative in Beijing.

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