Xi Repeats Call for Ukraine Cease-Fire in Talks With Orban

(Bloomberg) -- Chinese leader Xi Jinping repeated his call for a cease-fire in Ukraine during a surprise meeting with visiting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has upset Europe with a self-styled “peace mission.”

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Xi said the priority now should be a “deescalation as quickly as possible,” according to a post on X by a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry in Beijing, echoing comments his nation has made since Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022.

Orban lauded China, according to Hungary’s state-run MTI news outlet, crediting it with “firmness and stability.”

Xi’s comments are unlikely to do much to end the fighting. Beijing has sought to portray itself as mostly neutral since Russia’s attack, yet it has developed a deep friendship with Moscow as part of what Xi and Vladimir Putin term a “no limits” friendship.

Underscoring their closeness, Xi and Putin have met more than 40 times since the Chinese leader came to power in 2012. During a sitdown in Beijing in May, they agreed to tighten coordination, including between their militaries, against what they called Washington’s “destructive and hostile course.”

The US has been a strong backer of Ukraine, especially militarily.

China laid out a vague 12-point blueprint for peace in early 2023 that has largely been ignored by the parties to the war. A fundamental flaw is that it doesn’t explain how territory that Russia has seized would be handled.

Earlier this year, China and Brazil called for an international conference recognized by both Russia and Ukraine to discuss proposals to halt the war. That idea came just before a conference on the war hosted by Switzerland that Beijing didn’t attend.

Orban’s trip to China comes just after he met with Putin in Moscow. That visit provoked a sharp response from the rest of the European Union, which had already been worried about how Hungary would approach the EU presidency it started on July 1.

“Appeasement will not stop Putin,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a post on X after Orban landed in Russia.

Speaking alongside the Russian leader after talks, Orban presented himself as uniquely positioned to mediate on the war. The Kremlin said afterward that there was no progress on Ukraine.

--With assistance from Jing Li.

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