BEIJING (Reuters) – The Chinese foreign ministry said on Wednesday that Papal envoy Cardinal Matteo Zuppi will visit China for talks on resolving the conflict in Ukraine, despite the lack of formal bilateral ties between Beijing and the Holy See.
China’s Special Envoy for Eurasian Affairs Li Hui will meet with Zuppi, Mao Ning, a spokesperson at the foreign ministry, told a regular news conference.
“On the issue of Ukraine, China has always been committed to promoting peace talks,” said Mao. “We are ready to work with all parties and continue to play a constructive role in promoting de-escalation and cooling of the situation.”
Since the Ukraine war broke out in February 2022, China has refrained from condemning its ally Russia, although it has repeatedly called for a ceasefire and a political solution to the crisis.
Hosting a senior Papal envoy is seen as significant, given Beijing’s cool ties with the Vatican.
The Vatican has bilateral relations with democratically governed Taiwan but not China, which claims the island as part of its territory. Sino-Vatican ties have also remained brittle due to differences over the appointments of bishops in China.
The Chinese foreign ministry did not give details on Zuppi’s schedule or say who he would meet, but Italian newspaper La Repubblica said he was likely to meet “top institutional leaders” in Beijing, including Chinese Premier Li Qiang.
Zuppi will be in China from Wednesday to Friday as part of a diplomatic push to facilitate peace in Ukraine, the Vatican said on Tuesday.
The Italy-born cardinal had already visited Kyiv and Moscow in June and then Washington in July as part of the Holy See’s attempts to bring Ukraine and Russia to the negotiating table.
The highest-level official encounter between China and the Vatican was a meeting between Archbishop Paul Gallagher and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in 2020 on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich.
(Reporting by Ethan Wang and Ryan Woo; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)
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