China's Xi heralds 'unbreakable' friendship with Belarus, an ally of Russia
Chinese leader Xi Jinping met on Wednesday with Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
According to Chinese state media, Lukashenko was welcomed with a 21-gun salute in Tiananmen Square, where he reviewed honor guard troops with Xi, who later declared the China-Belarus friendship "unbreakable."
The meeting comes a week after Beijing called for a cease-fire and peace talks to end the war between Russia and Ukraine, both neighbors of Belarus. It also follows a pledge by China and Russia to strengthen their cooperation.
"In the face of an international situation full of instability and uncertainty, China is ready to work together with Belarus to promote the healthy and stable development of relations between the two countries at a high level," Xi was cited as telling Lukashenko.
Xi said the two sides should continue to enhance political mutual trust and "always be each other's true friends and good partners." China and Belarus "should support each other's chosen development path, support each other in safeguarding core interests, oppose interference in internal affairs by external forces, and safeguard the sovereignty and political security of both countries."
China's state Xinhua news agency said the two leaders exchanged views on the Ukraine situation, with Xi reiterating China's position.
Lukashenko was cited as saying that Belarus "fully shares and supports" China's position and proposal for a political settlement of the crisis.
Outlined in a Chinese Foreign Ministry policy paper on last week's anniversary of the Russia-Ukraine war, the plan also criticizes unilateral sanctions and calls for recognition of the "sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries."
China maintains close ties to Russia and has never condemned its invasion of Ukraine.
The United States has been dismissive of China's policy paper, although the leaders of Ukraine and France responded more positively and said they wanted to discuss it with Xi.
Russian forces launched part of their offensive on Ukraine last year through Belarus.
Xi and Lukashenko signed a joint statement on the further development of the "China-Belarus All-Weather Strategic Partnership," and witnessed the signing of a number of bilateral cooperation documents in the fields of trade, industry, agriculture, customs, science and technology, health, tourism, sports, localities and others.
Lukashenko has been president of the former Soviet republic since 1994, and won a sixth term in 2020 in a election widely viewed as fraudulent. Lukashenko retaining power in aftermath of the election set off months of street protests, which the regime met with a violent crackdown.
His government and associates have come under repeated rounds of Western sanctions over those events and for supporting Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.