Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Wednesday hailed his country’s ties with Beijing ahead of a closely watched meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
The state visit to the Chinese capital by Lukashenko — a staunch ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — comes after Beijing laid out a position of ostensible neutrality on the year-long war in Ukraine.
China has been criticised by Western countries for failing to condemn Moscow’s invasion of its European neighbour, and has reacted furiously to recent claims by the United States and NATO that it may be contemplating arms transfers to Russia.
At a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday, Lukashenko said Beijing and Minsk “have no closed topics for cooperation”, according to a readout published on the official website of the Belarusian presidency.
“We cooperate in all avenues. Most importantly, we have never set ourselves the task of being friends or working against third countries,” Lukashenko said, according to the readout.
“We are doing everything in the interests of our peoples — Belarusian and Chinese. This will continue to be the case,” he said.
In an accompanying video clip, Li could be heard telling Lukashenko that Xi would meet with him Wednesday afternoon to “further plan the development of bilateral relations”.
“We are confident that relations between Belarus and China will continue to move forward, building on the friendship between the two countries,” Li said.
In a jovial run-up to the three-day trip, Beijing lauded its “all-weather and comprehensive” strategic partnership with Minsk while Lukashenko said he was looking forward to meeting his “old friend” Xi.
The Belarusian leader also called China’s position on the Ukraine crisis “a testimony to its peaceful foreign policy as well as a new and original step that will have a far-reaching impact all over the world”, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua.
Xi has spoken to Putin several times since the war began, but he has not done so with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.
Belarus shares a border with both Ukraine and Russia, but is financially and politically dependent on the Putin administration.
Lukashenko allowed Russia to use Belarus as a staging ground for its Ukraine offensive, and Kyiv has expressed concern that Minsk may provide further support in Moscow’s war effort.