The foreign secretary has said he would “welcome” any intervention by China that could help bring the war between Russia and Ukraine to an end.
James Cleverly said he did not think the West should be a “dog in a manger” about how a potential settlement was reached, and that “we know that Xi [Jinping] enjoys a significant degree of influence with Vladimir Putin”.
The foreign secretary was speaking while on a visit to the US where he stressed the need for the two allies to maintain their support for Ukraine.
China has sought to adopt a neutral stance in the against Ukraine and its president, Xi Jinping, is thought to be on good terms with Mr Putin, paying him a three-day visit in Moscow in March.
Mr Cleverly’s words are likely to be met with disapproval by some – including by former prime minister Liz Truss, who urged the West to “get real” about the threat posed by China in a recent speech at a US thinktank.
She specifically singled out a recent visit French President Emmanuel Macron made to Beijing as an example, branding it a “sign of weakness”.
But the foreign secretary said Britain would not be critical if Mr Xi, the Chinese President, chose to use his “significant degree of influence” with Mr Putin to bring about a “just and sustainable” peace settlement.
“I would welcome the intervention that brought this war to a just and sustainable conclusion from wherever it came,” Mr Cleverly said.
“And I don’t think we should be dog in the manger about this. We know that Xi enjoys a significant degree of influence with Vladimir Putin.
“If he can use that influence to deliver on what he has publicly stated that he feels strongly about – which is sovereignty, territory, integrity, the non-threat of use of nuclear weapons – then why would we be critical of that intervention if it is meaningful and if he actually delivers upon it? (Those are) two big ‘ifs’.”
He added: “But if through his intervention he can help restore the sovereignty of Ukraine and get Russian troops out of that country, then I’m not going to be critical of that.
“But it needs to be more than just headline-grabbing stuff, it needs to be genuine intervention.”
Mr Cleverly made the speech following an escalation of attacks on Ukrainian civilians by Russia over the past few days.
More Russian missiles were fired in the direction of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv overnight, which followed a series of drone, missile and airstrike attacks on Monday morning in the regions of Kharkiv, Kherson, Mykolaiv and Odesa.
The attacks have been seen as part of the Kremlin’s attempts to recapture the narrative ahead of its Second World War Victory Day holiday – the annual celebration of Russia’s defeat of Nazi Germany – which took place today.
The celebrations this year were pared back following warnings over potential security threats, with analysts claiming that just 51 vehicles were involved in the 2023 procession, compared with the 200 pieces of military hardware that were on display in Moscow three years ago.
In his speech, the Russian president attempted to blame the war in Ukraine on the West’s “untamed ambitions, arrogance and impunity” and claimed that a “real war” had been unleashed against Russia – in comments that were denounced by Rishi Sunak.
Mr Cleverly also warned his US audience to be prepared for the possibility that Kyiv’s anticipated spring offensive against Russia might struggle to deliver the decisive breakthrough desired.
He said the conflict in Ukraine, which is now in its 15th month, may get “scary” and not follow the plot of a “Hollywood movie” but urged the UK and its allies to “stick with” Kyiv.
“We need to recognise that there might not be a simple, quick, decisive breakthrough,” Mr Cleverly said.
“And the point that we’ve made in the UK is that we have to stick with them.
“Now I hope and expect they’ll do very well because whenever I’ve seen Ukrainians, they’ve outperformed expectations. But we have to be realistic. This is the real world, this is not a Hollywood movie.
“Things are complicated, things are messy, things are difficult, things will get scary.
“We will expect to hear escalatory words coming out of Vladimir Putin’s lips – we need to be ready for that, we need to have the resolve to continue to do the right thing, notwithstanding those comments.”
Asked whether he thought the West’s armed response had been “commensurate” with the threat posed by Russia, Mr Cleverly said: “There is a strong argument that we shouldn’t leave our respective military cupboards bare.
“My answer is that: if we’re saving stuff up for a rainy day, this is the rainy day.”
Today a new $1.2bn military aid package for Ukraine was announced by the White House which includes additional air defence systems and artillery rounds.
Ukraine will receive additional air defence systems and munitions as well as the technology to integrate Western air defence launchers, missiles and radars with Ukraine’s native defence systems.
This story originally appeared on Skynews