Mogherini to discuss Ukraine with China

The services of Federica Mogherini will host the tiny task force. [Reuters]

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said crises in Ukraine and other global hotspots will be on the agenda at talks in Beijing beginning Tuesday (5 May), Chinese state media reported.

Mogherini is leading an EU delegation attending a regular strategic dialogue with top Chinese officials, a forum in which the two sides exchange views and develop political and economic relations.

The EU is China’s biggest trading partner, while China is the EU’s second-largest. Beijing is seeking a greater role on the world diplomatic stage and Mogherini told the official Xinhua news agency she was looking forward to “discussing how we can enhance our cooperation to bring an end to a number of crises and how we can prevent others”.

“This should be a new way of dealing with complexity: thinking strategically, looking at worrying signs that emerge and trying to prevent crises,” she added.

Xinhua said she was referring to events in Ukraine, the Middle East, Afghanistan and Libya.

Her meetings include talks with Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi, the country’s top foreign policy official.

China is part of international negotiations aimed at containing Iran’s nuclear programme, involving Tehran and the so-called P5+1 — Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany.

Mogherini has also played a role in those talks, which made a major breakthrough early last month when a framework deal was agreed, though numerous details remain to be worked out amid intense opposition to the deal in Israel and among members of the US Congress.

The EU foreign policy chief stressed that the EU and China have begun to develop defence and security ties, with an emphasis so far on combating threats to international shipping.

“We will discuss how we can build on our successful cooperation on fighting piracy in the Gulf of Aden and enhance our coordination in addressing the root causes of piracy,” she said.

But at the same time the EU is at odds with Russia over the annexation of Crimea and fighting in Ukraine, while Moscow and Beijing are drawing closer.

China’s military announced last week that its navy and Russia’s will conduct their first-ever joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean Sea this month.

Mogherini’s interview with Xinhua did not address whether human rights would be discussed, but she is under pressure from campaign groups to raise the issue.

Human Rights Watch last week urged her to “express publicly and privately to senior Chinese leaders the European Union’s concerns about the deteriorating human rights environment”.

It cited abuses of government critics, activists, lawyers, journalists and academics, including imprisoned 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and ethnic Uighur economist Ilham Tohti, who is serving a life sentence after being convicted of separatism.

Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet also called on Mogherini to raise the issue of what it described as the “worsening human rights situation” in the Himalayan region.

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