China calls for peace talks, ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine

China, a firm Russian ally, has called for a cease-fire between Ukraine and Russia and the opening of peace talks as part of a 12-point proposal to end the conflict.

Zelenskyy says 'it is not bad' that China is talking about peace, while U.S. reserves judgment

A dark haired man with galsses stands at a podium in front of a blue wall with Chinese characters on it
Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang speaks during the Lanting Forum on the Global Security Initiative Tuesday. The foreign ministry issued a 12-point plan to end the Russia-Ukraine war Friday. (Andy Wong/The Associated Press )

China, a firm Russian ally, has called for a cease-fire between Ukraine and Russia and the opening of peace talks as part of a 12-point proposal to end the conflict.

The plan issued Friday morning by the Chinese Foreign Ministry also urges an end to Western sanctions imposed on Russia, measures to ensure the safety of nuclear facilities, the establishment of humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians, and steps to ensure the export of grain after disruptions caused global food prices to spike.

China has claimed to be neutral in the conflict, but it has a "no limits" relationship with Russia and has refused to criticize its invasion of Ukraine — or even refer to it as such — while accusing the West of provoking the conflict and "fanning the flames" by providing Ukraine with defensive arms.

China and Russia have increasingly aligned their foreign policies to oppose the U.S.-led international order. China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi reaffirmed the strength of those ties when he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a visit to Moscow this week.

China has also been accused by the U.S. of possibly preparing to provide Russia with military aid, something Beijing says lacks evidence.

China's positions throw doubt on whether its 12-point proposal has any hope of going ahead — or whether China can be seen as an honest broker.

WATCH | China has maintained firm support for Russia:

Putin meets with China’s top diplomat, attempts to strengthen ties

3 months ago
Duration 2:18
Vladimir Putin hosted China's top diplomat amid concerns in the West that Beijing is considering offering Russia military support. Despite Putin's announcement that the relationship with China is 'reaching new frontiers,' experts say there are limits to how far Beijing will go.

Zelenskyy, U.S. react

Before the proposal was released, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called it an important first step.

"I think that, in general, the fact that China started talking about peace in Ukraine, I think that it is not bad. It is important for us that all states are on our side, on the side of justice," he said at a news conference Friday with Spain's prime minister.

Two men shake hands before yellow flags seens behind them
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez shake hands during a joint press conference in Kyiv Thursday. Zelenskyy said of China's plan, 'It is important for us that all states are on our side, on the side of justice.' (Emilio Morenatti/The Associated Press)

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said earlier Thursday that the U.S. would reserve judgment but that China's allegiance with Russia meant it was not a neutral mediator.

"We would like to see nothing more than a just and durable peace ... but we are skeptical that reports of a proposal like this will be a constructive path forward," he said.

Price added that the U.S. hopes "all countries that have a relationship with Russia unlike the one that we have will use that leverage, will use that influence to push Russia meaningfully and usefully to end this brutal war of aggression.

"[China] is in a position to do that in ways that we just aren't."

A long, two story building with the top floor lit up blue and the bottom yellow.
The Portuguese Parliament was lit with the colours of the Ukrainian flag to mark the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine, in Lisbon, Thursday night. (Armando Franca/The Associated Press)

China abstains from UN vote 

The peace proposal mainly elaborated on long-held Chinese positions, including referring to the need that all countries' "sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity be effectively guaranteed." It also called an end to the "Cold War mentality" — it's standard term for what it regards as U.S. hegemony and interference in other countries.

"A country's security cannot be at the expense of other countries' security, and regional security cannot be guaranteed by strengthening or even expanding military blocs," the proposal said. "The legitimate security interests and concerns of all countries should be taken seriously and properly addressed."

China abstained Thursday when the UN General Assembly approved a nonbinding resolution that calls for Russia to end hostilities in Ukraine and withdraw its forces. It is one of 16 countries that either voted against or abstained on almost all of five previous resolutions on Ukraine.

Two woemn hold red bunches of balloons in front of the illuminated structure.
The Eiffel Tower was also illuminated with the colors of Ukraine to mark one year since the invasion. (Christophe Ena/The Associated Press )

The resolution, drafted by Ukraine in consultation with its allies, passed 141-7 with 32 abstentions, sending a strong message on the eve of the first anniversary of the invasion that appears to leave Russia more isolated than ever.

While China has not been openly critical of Moscow, it has said that the present conflict is "not something it wishes to see," and has repeatedly said any use of nuclear weapons would be completely unacceptable, in an implied repudiation of Putin's statement that Russia would use "all available means" to protect its territory.

"There are no winners in conflict wars," the proposal said.

"All parties should maintain rationality and restraint ... support Russia and Ukraine to meet each other, resume direct dialogue as soon as possible, gradually promote the de-escalation and relaxation of the situation, and finally reach a comprehensive ceasefire," it said.

WATCH | How the war unfolded over the past 12 months:

Mapping a year of war in Ukraine

3 months ago
Duration 1:01
Mapping data shows Russia’s push into Ukraine over the last year and where it has lost ground to counteroffensive measures from Ukrainian forces.