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French President Emmanuel Macron called for Paris and Beijing to unite against the war in Ukraine as he began a meeting with China’s leader Xi Jinping in Bali on Tuesday.
The leaders of the G20 nations and other international heads have begun talks at the annual summit, which is being overshadowed by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Although Russian President Vladimir Putin has pulled out, he is being represented by his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov.
Nevertheless, an end-of-summit statement will be issued in which “most” members are expected to condemn Russia’s aggression.
Macron and Jinping shook hands as they began their discussions on the sidelines.
According to the Élysée Palace, Macron asked China’s leader to intervene with Putin to convince him to stop the “escalation” in Ukraine and return to the “negotiating table”.
“You mentioned the climate issue, to name just one and probably the most important one, but also there are international crises like Russia’s war in Ukraine, for which the G20 is an appropriate format”, said Macron.
Xi made no mention of the conflict in his opening remarks, calling more broadly for the two countries to “uphold the spirits of independence, autonomy, openness and cooperation”.
China has not condemned the Russian offensive in Ukraine launched on February 24 and remains very reluctant, like many southern countries, including Indonesia, to criticise Moscow.
However, Paris says “the lines are starting to move” on the Chinese side, and Beijing “is trying to find a situation of balance” on the conflict in Ukraine.
The two leaders also expressed their desire to “move forward” on several bilateral issues, from agrifood to aeronautics.
This comes as President Xi and US President Joe Biden also held their first in-person talks.
Biden described the meeting as “conciliatory”.
The summit will be the first for two critical new partners in Biden’s effort: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni.
Meloni has pledged to continue to provide arms and aid for Ukraine, but questions remain over her far-right coalition’s commitment to stand up to Russia. She will meet with Biden privately on Tuesday afternoon.
The G20, which is being held against a background of numerous sources of tension, is the biggest gathering by the group of leaders since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
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