EU exec backs Kyiv peace plan as China starts 'political settlement' tour

European Commission President von der Leyen speaks during an interview in Kyiv

By Gabriela Baczynska

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union's chief executive said on Monday that Kyiv's own peace plan should serve as the starting point for any efforts to end Russia's war in Ukraine, in comments timed to coincide with the start of China's "political settlement" tour of Europe.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke as a top Chinese envoy began a tour of Europe that Beijing says is aimed at discussing a "political settlement" to the war in Ukraine, now in its 15 month.

"Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine," said von der Leyen, who visited Kyiv last week. "We should never forget that Ukraine is the country that was brutally invaded. It's therefore the one that should set out the core principles for just peace."

While she said it was "very good" that Chinese President Xi Jinping had held a phone call with Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskiy, she stressed Beijing should use its influence on Moscow to end the war.

She spoke on the eve of an intense international diplomacy week during which Russia's war against Ukraine would top the agenda.

"We will keep supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes," von der Leyen told a news conference, a statement she said "must translate into stable financial support also beyond 2023, and accelerated military support focused on now and here."

Von der Leyen also backed creating a special tribunal to hold Russia to account and said a new "register of damage" would be launched in the Hague: "a very good step towards Russian compensation."

SANCTIONS

Her comments come a day ahead of a summit of the Council of Europe, the continent's leading human rights watchdog, in Reykjavik, which will be followed by a gathering of G7 leaders of the world's most industrialised countries in Hiroshima.

Von der Leyen said the G7 would discuss sanctions over Russia's war, including the latest proposal for new EU measures put forward by her Commission, the EU's executive arm.

The proposal aims to tighten implementation of the sanctions the bloc has imposed on Russia since it invaded Ukraine, including by threatening to curb specific categories of trade with third countries deemed involved in circumvention. That plan has raised some concern in Germany, according to EU diplomats.

Von der Leyen said the proposal - now being discussed by the bloc's 27 member states, which are expected to take time before they reach the necessary unanimity to enact any new sanctions - was largely meant as a deterrent.

She described it as: "A warning that we are serious about our sanctions, that we could ban those goods going to a third country if there is clear evidence that there is circumvention of sanctions and deliveries to Russia."

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Hugh Lawson)