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Ukraine's foreign minister and visiting Chinese envoy discuss peace, but next steps unclear

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Press Office, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, center left, and Li Hui, Chinese envoy, center right, during their talks in Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, May 17, 2023. (Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Press Office via AP) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's foreign minister met with a visiting Chinese mediator to discuss how to end Russia's war, but no details were disclosed Wednesday and the next steps were unclear.

Over two days, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba discussed with envoy Li Hui “ways to stop Russian aggression,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Kuleba briefed Li, a former Chinese ambassador to Moscow, “about the principles of restoring a stable and just peace based on respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

Kuleba, according to the statement, repeated his government's position that Ukraine wouldn't accept any proposal involving the loss of its territories or the “freezing of the conflict.”

There was no word on how Li responded to Kuleba.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s government says it's neutral and wants to serve as mediator in the 15-month-long conflict, but has supported Moscow politically. Beijing released a proposed peace plan in February, but Ukraine's allies largely dismissed it, insisting that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces must withdraw his forces.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has said Li also will visit Poland, France and Germany, but didn't give details of his schedule.

Political analysts see little hope for a peace agreement because neither Ukraine nor Russia is ready to stop fighting.

Xi’s government sees Moscow as a diplomatic partner in opposing U.S. domination of global affairs. Beijing has refused to criticize the invasion and used its status as one of five permanent U.N. Security Council members to deflect diplomatic attacks on Russia.

African countries are also undertaking a peace initiative over the war in Ukraine. South Africa's president said Tuesday that Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had agreed to separate meetings with a delegation of leaders from six African countries to discuss a possible peace plan.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Putin and Zelenskyy agreed to host “an African leaders peace mission” in Moscow and Kyiv, respectively.

Ramaphosa didn't give a time frame or outline any parameters for the possible peace talks.

The Kremlin wants Kyiv to acknowledge Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and the Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia, which most nations have denounced as illegal. Ukraine has rejected the demands and ruled out any talks with Russia until its troops pull back from all occupied territories.

Zelenskyy’s 10-point peace plan also includes a tribunal to prosecute crimes of aggression, which would enable Russia to be held accountable for its invasion.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine