PARIS, Feb 26 (AFP) - French President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday (Feb 25) he would visit China in April, and urged Beijing to pressure Russia to end the war in Ukraine.
China has sought to position itself as a neutral party on the conflict, even as it has maintained close ties with Russia and helped scuttle a joint statement condemning the war at a G20 gathering in India.
It published a 12-point position paper on Friday that called for urgent peace talks and a "political settlement" to end the conflict.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday also expressed hopes to meet Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, calling it "important for world security".
Macron said on Saturday he would visit China in "early April" and urged Beijing to help "put pressure" on Russia to end the war.
"The fact that China is engaging in peace efforts is a good thing," Macron said on the sidelines of an agricultural show in Paris, in reference to the position paper.
Peace was only possible if "Russian aggression was halted, troops withdrawn, and the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine and its people was respected", he added.
Earlier on Saturday, the Chinese foreign ministry said Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko would pay a state visit from Feb 28 to Mar 2 at Xi's invitation.
A long-time ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Lukashenko allowed his country to be used as a launchpad for Moscow's invasion of its pro-Western ally on Feb 24 last year.
Kyiv has expressed concerns that Belarus could again support Moscow in its war effort, with the countries announcing the creation of a joint regional force last October.
Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang told his Belarusian counterpart Sergei Aleinik that Beijing was willing to work with Minsk to deepen mutual political trust during a phone conversation on Friday, China's ministry said in a statement.
China would also continue to support Belarus in maintaining national stability and oppose attempts by "external forces" to interfere in its internal affairs or impose "illegal" unilateral sanctions on Minsk, Qin told Aleinik.