US encourages China to attend peace summit on Ukraine

FILE PHOTO: Protest in support of Ukraine, in Geneva

By Simon Lewis and Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States encourages China to attend a planned summit on Ukraine this month in Switzerland, a U.S. State Department spokesperson told reporters on Thursday, with China thus far saying it will stay away as Russia had not been invited.

WHY IT IS IMPORTANT

Kyiv says more than 100 countries have accepted its invitation to the summit to discuss provisions of a peace plan outlined by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to end the full-scale Russian invasion that began in February 2022. Russia, with whom China has close ties, has not been invited to participate in the June 15-16 meeting.

Beijing, which has close ties with Moscow, has so far said it will stay away from the summit, describing the attendance of both warring sides as a prerequisite for any substantive peace conference.

KEY QUOTES

"We certainly would encourage China to participate in that summit. They've attended previous versions of the summit. We thought their presence was helpful. We think their presence would be helpful here," the State Department spokesperson said in a briefing.

The spokesperson also said that China should crack down on companies that Washington says help Russia's defense industrial base, which he added would be "even more helpful."

CONTEXT

Moscow has ridiculed the idea of a summit without its participation as pointless. Ukraine has accused Moscow of trying to disrupt the conference.

The United States has previously said that Washington and the European Union must deliver a message to China that its firms face a choice between doing business with the U.S. and EU economies or equipping Russia with dual-use goods.

President Joe Biden's administration has stepped up messaging about China's support for Russia and issued an executive order in December that threatened sanctions on financial institutions helping Moscow skirt Western sanctions.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis and Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)