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China says not deliberately circumventing sanctions on Russia

© Reuters. Flags of China and Russia are displayed in this illustration picture taken March 24, 2022. REUTERS/Florence Lo/Illustration

By Yew Lun Tian

BEIJING (Reuters) -China is not deliberately circumventing sanctions on Russia, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Saturday, a day after the European Union warned Beijing against allowing Moscow to work around measures imposed after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Wang Lutong, director-general of European affairs at China’s foreign ministry, told reporters that China is contributing to the global economy by conducting normal trade with Russia.

“China is not a related party on the crisis of Ukraine. We don’t think our normal trade with any other country should be affected,” he said.

Wang’s comments come a day after an EU-China virtual summit that included the EU’s comments on sanctions and China offering assurances that it would seek peace for Ukraine but “in its own way.”

Beijing, which has forged closer ties with Moscow, has refused to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine or call it an invasion and has repeatedly criticised what it calls illegal and unilateral Western sanctions.

“We oppose sanctions, and the effects of these sanctions also risk spilling to the rest of the world, leading to wars of the currency, wars of trade and finance and also risk jeopardising the supply chain and industrial chain and globalisatiom and even the economic order,” Wang said.

Wang also said there was no progress made during the summit on a stalled investment deal between the two sides.

The EU and China concluded an investment agreement in late 2020, but that was put on hold after Brussels sanctioned Chinese officials over alleged human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region, which prompted Beijing to blacklist EU individuals and entities.

“The ball is in the court of Brussels,” Wang said.

“I think the Europeans have got to remove the sanctions first, and then we can explore the possibility of removing other retaliation measures, which is reciprocal,” he said.

While ties between China and the EU have been strained, Wang also spoke of common ground between the huge trading partners, saying that the two sides will deepen cooperation on combating climate change.

He also said that issues including Ukraine and Iran are points of cooperation, not points of friction.

Wang described Friday’s talks as “very frank, open and in-depth,” echoing a similar a characterisation by EU officials.

The presidents of the European Commission and European Council, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, spoke with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang for about two hours, followed by a one-hour session with President Xi Jinping, Wang said.

China says not deliberately circumventing sanctions on Russia

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