The foreign minister said he would “welcome” any intervention from China that could help end the war between Russia and Ukraine.
James Cleverly said he doesn’t think the West should be a “dog in a manger” over how a potential settlement was reached, and that “we know Xi [Jinping] enjoys significant influence with Vladimir Putin.”
The Foreign Minister was speaking during a visit to the United States where he stressed the need for the two allies to maintain their support for Ukraine.
China has sought to adopt a neutral stance on Ukraine and its president, Xi Jinping, is said to be on good terms with Mr Putin, paying him a three-day visit to Moscow in March.
Mr Cleverly’s words are likely to be frowned upon by some – including former Prime Minister Liz Truss, who urged the West to ‘wake up’ to the threat posed by China in a recent speech to an American think tank.
She specifically mentioned a recent visit French President Emmanuel Macron visits Beijing for example, calling it a “sign of weakness”.
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But the foreign secretary said Britain would not be critical if Mr Xi, China’s president, chose to use his ‘significant degree of influence’ with Mr Putin to reach a peace settlement “fair and sustainable”.
“I would salute the intervention that brought this war to a just and lasting conclusion from wherever it comes,” Mr Cleverly said.
“And I don’t think we should be the dogs in the manger on this. We know Xi wields significant influence with Vladimir Putin.
“If he can use that influence to achieve what he has publicly stated and is close to his heart – namely sovereignty, territory, integrity, non-threat of use of nuclear weapons – then why are we criticizing this intervention if it’s meaningful and if he actually respects it? (Those are) two big ‘ifs’.”
He added: “But if through his intervention he can help restore Ukraine’s sovereignty and get Russian troops out of this country, then I’m not going to criticize that.
“But it has to be more than headline-grabbing stuff, it has to be real intervention.”
Mr Cleverly delivered the speech following a escalation of attacks on Ukrainian civilians by Russia in recent days.
More Russian missiles were fired towards Ukraine’s capital Kyiv overnight after a series of drone, missile and airstrike attacks on Monday morning in Kharkiv, Kherson, Mykolaiv and Odessa regions.
The attacks were seen as part of the Kremlin’s attempts to take over the narrative before its World War II Victory Day – the annual celebration of the Russian defeat of Nazi Germany – which took place today.
This year’s celebrations have been scaled down following warnings of potential security threats, with analysts saying only 51 vehicles were involved in the 2023 procession, compared to the 200 pieces of military equipment on display in Moscow three years ago.
In his speech, the Russian president tried to blame the war in Ukraine on the West’s “savage ambitions, arrogance and impunity” and claimed that a “real war” had been unleashed against Russia – in remarks denounced by Rishi Sunak.
Mr Cleverly also warned his American audience to be prepared for the possibility of kyiv anticipating spring offensive against Russia may struggle to achieve the desired breakthrough.
He said the conflict in Ukraine, now in its 15th month, could get “scary” and not follow the plot of a “Hollywood movie”, but urged the UK and its allies to ” stay with » Kyiv.
“We have to recognize that there may not be a simple, quick and decisive breakthrough,” Mr Cleverly said.
“And what we’ve been arguing in the UK is that we have to stick with them.
“Now I hope and expect them to do very well because every time I’ve seen Ukrainians they’ve exceeded expectations. But we have to be realistic. That’s the real world, it’s not a Hollywood movie.
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“Things are complicated, things are complicated, things are difficult, things are going to get scary.
“We will expect to hear words of escalation coming out of Vladimir Putin’s mouth – we have to be ready for that, we have to have the resolve to keep doing the right thing, despite these comments.”
Asked if he thought the West’s armed response had been ‘proportionate’ to the threat posed by Russia, Mr Cleverly said: ‘There is a strong argument that we shouldn’t leave our respective military cabinets bare.
“My answer is: if we save things for a rainy day, it’s the rainy day.”
Today, a new $1.2 billion military aid package for Ukraine was announced by the White House, which includes additional air defense systems and artillery shells.
Ukraine will receive additional air defense systems and ammunition as well as the technology to integrate Western air defense launchers, missiles and radars with Ukraine’s native defense systems.