The subject of a brief communiqué from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the meeting remained discreet. Chinese envoy Li Hui met Frédéric Mondoloni, the new director general of political and security affairs at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on Tuesday, May, 23. Mondoloni is the successor to Philippe Errera, who has just left his post to join the Safran group after four years of distinguished service. The Chinese diplomat is touring Europe to discuss a “political settlement” of the conflict in Ukraine, 15 months after the Russian invasion began.
This former Chinese ambassador to Russia has just spent two days in Kyiv for the first time since the beginning of the war, before going to Warsaw, Paris, and then to Berlin and Moscow. His French interlocutor, in charge until now of continental Europe, welcomed the “resumption of dialogue between China and Ukraine,” a few weeks after an unprecedented call from Xi Jinping to Zelensky. Mondoloni hoped that China would play “a constructive role” in turning the page on the war as soon as possible.
As much as the surprise arrival of the Ukrainian president at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan on Saturday, May 20, aboard an official French plane, these more or less media-friendly events reflect a reality that’s still in its infancy. While Ukraine is preparing a vast counter-offensive in the hope of recovering as much territory occupied by Russian forces as possible, some people want to look beyond the military horizon, to when Kyiv will have achieved, or not, its reconquest objectives – goals kept secret to date for obvious tactical reasons. Supported at arm’s length by Zelensky’s Western allies, the publicized military campaign is accompanied by major diplomatic maneuvers. These are still in disarray since opinions differ so much on the advisability of ceasing hostilities, and even on the best way to negotiate peace. Behind the counter-offensive binds multiple, still incompatible ulterior motives.
While his priority is optimizing the military support of his allies, particularly through fighter jets, Zelensky hasn’t been slow in positioning himself on the diplomatic terrain. During the G20 summit in Bali in November 2022, it was he who put a “peace plan” on the table, in consultation with the West, with the idea of countering calls for a ceasefire from emerging “non-aligned” countries and/or those close to Russia. He’s also the one who has been talking since December about an – unlikely, given the circumstances – “peace summit.”
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