- The Chinese ambassador in Paris caused a stir in the European Union
- Comments focused on Ukraine and the former Soviet countries
- Beijing says he was expressing his personal opinions
- The European Union welcomes the “clarification”
China’s Foreign Ministry said today, Monday, that China respects the status of the member states of the former Soviet Union as sovereign states, and distanced itself from the statements of its envoy to Paris, which caused an uproar among European capitals.
A number of EU foreign ministers said Ambassador Le Shay’s remarks – in which he questioned the sovereignty of Ukraine and other former Soviet states – were unacceptable and asked Beijing to clarify its position.
Asked whether Lu’s remarks represented China’s official position, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said that Beijing respects the status of the former Soviet Union member states as sovereign states in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Mao said at a regular press briefing that her remarks on sovereignty represented the official position of the Chinese government.
The Chinese embassy in Paris issued a statement later on Monday saying Lu’s remarks on Ukraine were “not a political declaration but an expression of his personal views”.
Both statements, after the backlash, appeared to be an attempt to ease tensions with the European Union, while Washington also pointed to the growing rapprochement between Beijing and Moscow.
“Beijing distanced itself from the unacceptable remarks of its ambassador,” Josep Borrell told a news conference, saying it was “good news.”
The French Foreign Ministry said it “takes note” of Beijing’s “clarifications” and that the minister’s chief of staff met Le on Monday, telling him his remarks were unacceptable and urging him to speak in a manner “in line with his country’s official position”.
Luo gained a reputation as one of China’s “wolf warriors” diplomats, dubbed for their hard-line and abrasive style.
Asked about his position on whether Crimea was part of Ukraine or not, Le said in an interview broadcast on French television on Friday that it was historically part of Russia and was offered to Ukraine by former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
“The countries of the former Soviet Union have no actual status in international law because there is no international agreement to embody their sovereign status,” Lu added.
Monday’s remarks, issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Chinese Embassy in Paris, followed criticism from across the European Union.
Speaking ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg earlier in the day, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky said Le’s remarks were “totally unacceptable”.
“I hope this ambassador’s superiors will put things right,” he told reporters.
A spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry said it took note of Lu’s remarks with “great surprise, especially since the remarks are not in line with the Chinese position that we know so far”.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said the three Baltic states would summon Chinese representatives to seek an official explanation.
He said Beijing was “sending the same message” as Moscow about questioning the sovereignty of former Soviet states, which he described as “dangerous”.
Lithuania and its Baltic neighbors Latvia and Estonia were incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940, but regained independence after their dissolution in 1991.
EU Council President Charles Michel said that EU leaders will discuss the bloc’s stance towards China and its future relations with Beijing during their next summit in June.
Lu has been summoned to the French Foreign Ministry several times in the past, including for implying that France was abandoning elderly people in nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic and for calling a respected Chinese researcher at a French think tank a “crazy hyena”.
Asked about the Chinese officials’ comments, White House spokesman John Kirby told MSNBC that China and Russia are clearly aligned, adding: “They are two countries that want to challenge the rules-based international order… that respects sovereignty around the world.” ..”
They want to undermine it. They want to diminish and diminish not only the United States and our influence around the world but also our allies and partners.
Reporting by Bart Meagher
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