On Sunday, April 23, the Baltic states summoned Chinese ambassadors to their foreign ministries over a comment about the sovereignty of post-Soviet countries and declared that such a position was unacceptable.
Photo: screenshot from the video
A distorted understanding of international law
Some “ex-Soviet Union countries” do not have effective status under international law, Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye said in an interview aired last Friday on the French network LCI.
“There is no international agreement to realize their status as a sovereign nation,” he said after being asked if he considers Crimea, a peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014, part of Ukraine. The ambassador said that “it depends on how you perceive the issue,” adding that it is not that simple.
He also said that “Crimea was Russian from the beginning,” without specifying what he meant by “from the beginning.”
The Baltic states are angry
According to LRT, such a statement by the Chinese ambassador to France did not go unnoticed by the states that were occupied by the Soviet Union.
Therefore, the Baltic states summoned Chinese ambassadors to their foreign ministries.
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs emphasized that “the remarks of the Chinese ambassador to France regarding international law and the sovereignty of nations are absolutely unacceptable” and said that Latvia demands explanations and a refutation of this statement.
“In view of the unacceptable statements made by the Chinese Ambassador to France on international law and national sovereignty, the Latvian Foreign Ministry summoned the Chargé d’Affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Riga for explanations on Monday. This step was agreed with Lithuania and Estonia,” Rinkēvičs wrote.
The minister also noted that he would raise the issue of the inadmissibility of these statements during the EU summit.
In turn, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis wrote that such statements by China are the reason why the Baltic states are against China being a peace mediator in Ukraine.
“If anyone is still wondering why the Baltic States don’t trust China to “broker peace in Ukraine”, here’s a Chinese ambassador arguing that Crimea is Russian and our countries’ borders have no legal basis,” – he said in a statement.
Estonian Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna said that the state summons the Chinese ambassador to “make it clear that such views are unacceptable, and Estonia is a sovereign state.”
According to the minister, such statements by the Chinese diplomat are regrettable and incomprehensible. “It is sad that the representative of the People’s Republic of China holds such views. This position is incomprehensible,” he said.
France expresses solidarity. Europe is not silent
After the controversial comments of the Chinese ambassador in Paris, France declared its “full solidarity” with all former Soviet member states, which, according to it, gained independence “after decades of oppression.”
“As for Ukraine in particular. It was internationally recognized within its borders, including Crimea, in 1991 by the entire international community, including China,” a French Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Sunday, Reuters reports
In addition, he said, China will have to clarify whether these comments by the Chinese ambassador reflect its position or not.
The head of the European Union’s foreign policy service, Josep Borrell, also reacted to the Chinese ambassador’s statement.
“Unacceptable remarks of the Chinese Ambassador to France questioning the sovereignty of the countries that became independent with the end of the Soviet Union in 1991,” he tweeted.
The EU can only assume that these statements do not reflect China’s official policy, Borrell added.
Post-Soviet countries have a clear status, unlike Russia
Ukraine, which was also occupied by the Soviet Union, has so far limited itself to statements.
Advisor to the Presidential Office Mykhailo Podolyak emphasized that all post-Soviet countries, except Russia, have a clear sovereign status, he commented on Twitter.
“All post-Soviet countries have a clear sovereign status enshrined in international law. Except, by the way, for Russia, which fraudulently took a seat in the UN Security Council,” Podolyak said.
According to him, it is also “strange to hear an absurd version of the ‘history of Crimea’ from a representative of a country that is scrupulous about its thousand-year history.”
“If you want to be a major political player, don’t retell the propaganda of Russian outsiders,” the advisor to the head of the Ukrainian presidential office emphasized.
Beijing has not yet responded to these statements.
Update (Monday, April 24, 13:30 GMT+2):
“China respects the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries and upholds the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, China was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with the respective countries,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said, as quoted by the French newspaper Le Monde.
She added that “since the establishment of diplomatic ties, China has always adhered to the principle of mutual respect and equality to develop bilateral relations of friendship and cooperation.”