The White House welcomed the news that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping Wednesday for the first time since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, but expressed caution about whether the call could lead to "some sort of meaningful peace movement or plan."
"We welcome the news that there was a phone call between President Xi and President Zelensky. We think that’s a good thing. We’ve been saying for quite some time that we believe it’s important for President Xi and PRC officials to avail themselves of the Ukrainian perspective on this illegal and unprovoked invasion by Russia," John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, told reporters.
“Whether that’s gonna lead to some sort of meaningful peace movement or plan or proposal, I just don’t think we know that right now,” Kirby added.
Asked whether China can help broker a peace deal, Kirby reiterated that it has to be on Zelensky’s terms, saying an agreement won’t be "sustainable or credible unless the Ukrainians and President Zelensky personally is invested and supportive of it."
Kirby said the White House did not have advanced knowledge that the call between Xi and Zelensky would take place, adding "nor would we necessarily expect to."
Some more context: Wednesday’s phone call is the first time Xi has spoken to Zelensky since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year. In comparison, Xi has spoken to Russian leader Vladimir Putin five times since the invasion – including a face-to-face meeting at the Kremlin when the Chinese leader visited Moscow last month and another in-person meeting at a regional summit in Central Asia last September.
China has claimed neutrality in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, with Beijing calling for peace in the conflict. But it has also refused to condemn Russia’s invasion or make any public call for Russia to withdraw its troops.