Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is calling for direct talks with China’s Xi Jinping as he urged Beijing to use its political and economic influence on Russia to help end the war in his country.
Mr. Zelenskyy’s call coincided with the US Senate’s approval of Sweden and Finland’s membership in NATO, showing its strong support for the transatlantic alliance’s expansion in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, Mr. Zelenskyy said in an interview that was published on Thursday, he has sought conversations with the Chinese President.
“I would like to talk directly. I had one conversation with Xi Jinping, that was a year ago. Since the beginning of the large-scale aggression on February 24, we have asked officially for a conversation but we haven’t had any conversation with China, even though I believe that would be helpful.”
China, Russia’s most significant ally, has refused to denounce the invasion, which has displaced 12 million people and killed at least 5327 civilians in Ukraine in the past six months.
The US Senate confirmed Finland and Sweden’s membership in the alliance on Wednesday by a vote of 95 to 1. The US is now the 23rd of 30 NATO nations to have officially endorsed the alliance, following Italy on Wednesday and France on Tuesday.
The Senate’s rapid ratification procedure, which was the fastest since 1981, was praised by President Joe Biden.
“This historic vote sends an important signal of the sustained, bipartisan US commitment to NATO, and to ensuring our alliance is prepared to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow,” the US President said.
Republican Josh Hawley was the only one to object, arguing that the US should focus on China’s threat rather than Europe’s. Republican Senator Rand Paul abstained from voting for or against the motion and instead cast a “present” vote.
Senate majority leader for Democrats Chuck Schumer claimed it was a sign of Western unification. He added, “This is significant both substantively and as a warning to Russia: they cannot bully America or Europe. “Putin has attempted to splinter the West with his conflict in Ukraine. Instead, the outcome of today’s vote demonstrates how solid our alliance is.
If Finland and Sweden, formally non-aligned but longtime auxiliary partners of the alliance, be admitted, all 30 members of NATO must concur.
According to a NATO list, seven member countries have yet to formally agree to the new double-entry: the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Turkey.
Only Turkey has issued a challenge, requesting specific accommodations from Finland and Sweden in exchange for supporting their membership.
In exchange for its backing, Ankara has asked for the extradition of dozens of government opponents from both nations whom it considers “terrorists.” On July 21, Turkey said that a special committee will meet with representatives from Finland and Sweden in August to see if the two countries were abiding by its demands.