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China’s EU ambassador says EU leaders may visit China by mid-2023

file photo: russian president vladimir putin and chinese president xi jinping toast during a visit to the far east street exhibition on the sidelines of the eastern economic forum in vladivostok
File photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping toast during a visit to the Far East Street exhibition in Vladivostok, Russia September 11, 2018. Sergei Bobylev/TASS Host Photo Agency/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Chinese ambassador to the European Union Fu Cong said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel may visit China in the first half of 2023, China’s state-backed Global Times reported.

Preparations for the visit by the EU’s top two officials are under way and “very frequent high-level mutual visits” between the EU and China are expected to begin soon, Fu said in an interview published on Friday.

The two sides have taken divergent positions on the year-long war in Ukraine, with EU diplomats criticising China’s refusal to describe the conflict as an invasion or to call for a Russian withdrawal from Ukrainian territory.

Fu said in the interview that EU anger with China over Ukraine was “very irrational” and that China did not want the issue to affect the development of ties with the bloc.

After the Chinese foreign ministry published on Friday a position paper expounding its stance on the war, the EU’s top diplomat in China Jorge Toledo told reporters in Beijing that parts of the paper were concerning.

“There is no mention of an aggressor there which is strange because it’s clear that there is an aggressor and there is an agressee. It’s illegal and unprovoked. So that’s a bit concerning,” Toledo said.

Fu said in December that the war had put China in a very difficult position in its relations with the EU, after Michel urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to use the country’s influence with Russia over its war in Ukraine during a visit to Beijing in early December.

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