Chinese President Xi Jinping will travel to Russia on Monday to hold crucial talks with his counterpart Vladimir Putin, the foreign ministry announced on Friday, amid reports that Beijing plans to initiate peace talks to end the raging conflict in Ukraine.
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying in a brief announcement said, "at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation, President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to Russia from March 20 to 22. No other details were given.
This will be Xi's first overseas trip after getting endorsed for an unprecedented third five-year term as the President and head of the military early this month by the National People's Congress (NPC).
According to a Kremlin statement, the two leaders will discuss "pressing issues related to the future of relations of comprehensive partnership and strategic interaction between Russia and China."
The parties are also expected to exchange views on ways to enhance Russian-Chinese cooperation on the international stage. In addition, the Kremlin press service specified that "a number of important bilateral documents will be signed" during the Chinese leader's visit, Russia's state-run Tass news agency reported on Friday.
Xi, 69, was elected as the head of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) for an unprecedented third term in October last year, the only leader to have more than two five-year terms after the party founder Mao Zedong. Speculation is rife that Xi, a close friend of Putin for the past 10 years, is likely to make an attempt to initiate peace talks between Russia and Ukraine to end the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
He is also expected to talk to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy over the phone.
Xi's visit comes days after China clinched a Saudi-Iran deal, regarded as a diplomatic coup, to end the hostilities between the two countries and restore diplomatic their ties. The deal was regarded as a major achievement for China in expanding its global outreach and countering the US influence, especially in the Middle East.
The visit also comes at a time when there seems no near end to the war in Ukraine which surpassed one year earlier last month. Western officials have also raised concerns that China may be considering providing Russia with lethal military assistance, an accusation denied by Beijing.
China reiterated its call for a political settlement to the Ukraine conflict on the one-year anniversary last month.
In a newly released document, China's Foreign Ministry called for a resumption of peace talks, an end to unilateral sanctions, and stressed its opposition to the use of nuclear weapons, a stance Chinese leader Xi communicated to Western leaders last year.
The 12-point document is part of Beijing's latest efforts to present itself as a neutral peace broker, as it struggles to balance its "no-limits" relationship with Moscow amid fraying relations with the West as the war drags on.
"Conflict and war benefit no one. All parties must stay rational and exercise restraint, avoid fanning the flames and aggravating tensions, and prevent the crisis from deteriorating further or even spiraling out of control," it said.