China welcomes positive step of Russia-Ukraine ministers' talks toward goal of peace
Published: Mar 10, 2022 11:01 PM Updated: Mar 10, 2022 10:55 PM
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (R) and Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba (back) attending Russia-Turkiye-Ukraine tripartite Foreign Ministers meeting in Antalya, Turkey on March 10. Photo: AFP

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (R) and Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba (back) attending Russia-Turkiye-Ukraine tripartite Foreign Ministers meeting in Antalya, Turkey on March 10. Photo: AFP

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The Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers held talks in Antalya, Turkey on Thursday, their first meeting since the military conflict between the two countries started, though the meeting failed to reach meaningful consensus, an analyst said high-ranking negotiations between the two sides are a positive signal, and the majority of the international community, including China, will welcome and encourage relevant parties to continue to make diplomatic efforts. 

According to press conferences held by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba after the trilateral meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, the talks didn't conclude with a significant breakthrough.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that he is no longer pressing for NATO membership for Ukraine, a delicate issue that was one of Russia's stated reasons for taking special military operations against Ukraine, AFP reported on Tuesday.

Cui Heng, an assistant research fellow at the Center for Russian Studies of East China Normal University, told the Global Times on Thursday that the latest talks in Turkey are at least a clear signal for peace, because if the previous lower-level talks saw no progress, the two sides wouldn't have agreed to fly to Turkey for a meeting, and it could be a response to the demand for talks among the international community.

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a virtual meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio that the Russia-Ukraine higher-level engagement and consultation is a positive step forward to peace. "The international community should encourage Russia and Ukraine to insist on the direction of negotiations, and to make continuous efforts toward the goal of peace."

Unlike the Crimea crisis in 2014, major European countries like France and Germany cannot play a meaningful role to mediate the conflict this time, but Turkey has some special advantages, experts said.

Turkey is the best example for Ukraine to understand how to deal with the EU and NATO, experts said. Turkey has campaigned to join the EU for decades. It applied for membership as early as 1987, became a candidate in 1999, and began formal negotiations in 2005, followed by more than a decade of seesaw battles. 

"Turkey's overall strength is better than Ukraine's, honestly speaking. If Turkey can hardly join the EU, why does Ukraine bother making so much effort for this goal?" Wang Yiwei, director of the institute of international affairs at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Ukraine now knows what NATO and the EU really think. So Zelensky said he is no longer pressing for NATO membership for Ukraine. "This is already new progress and is conducive to the outcome of the negotiations." Wang said.

As the West continues to impose more sanctions on Russia, it has already caused great losses to both European countries and Russia. To continue the confrontation would be a disaster for the entire Western world. Russia is now showing little sign of suffering, but the European countries are struggling, analysts noted. 

Russia seems well-prepared for the situation as it started to reduce dependency on the West in terms of its economy and trade after the Crimea crisis in 2014, and it even actively decoupled from the West to minimize the damage, Cui noted. 

But Western countries, especially European ones, are so dependent on Russia for energy that it would be expensive to switch to other sources. It's much more than a matter of years to find a replacement, Wang said. 

Some observers believe that the US is the biggest winner in the current situation, however, the interests of many American companies are also bundled up with Europe, and it is the US' own interests that will eventually be hurt if the conflict extends, Wang said.

Europe has now realized that either sanctions or the dismemberment of Russia will be highly detrimental to European security and interests, analysts said.

China's role will come to the fore if Russia and Ukraine finally reach an agreement. China has close strategic ties with Russia, has deep cooperation with Ukraine, and has broad common interests with Europe, so it would be appropriate for China to connect and support different parties for post-conflict reconstruction and heal economic damage, and to help the EU and Russia to build a new security mechanism that is dominated by Europeans, Wang noted.