BEIJING (Reuters) - China's President Xi Jinping told Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday that the road to peace talks on Ukraine would not be smooth and that China would continue to uphold its "objective and fair stance" on the issue.
Xi said Beijing and Moscow should closely coordinate and cooperate in international affairs and emphasised Russia's willingness to engage in negotiations over Ukraine, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said in its report on a call between the two men.
"The Chinese side has noted that the Russian side has said it has never refused to resolve the conflict through diplomatic negotiations, and expressed its appreciation for this," Xi was quoted as saying in the video call by CCTV.
Xi and Putin have in recent years been drawn closer by a shared distrust of the United States and its allies, highlighted by a declaration in early February of a "no-limits" strategic partnership that sent alarm bells ringing across the West.
But after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February, China has publicly stressed that it is not in any way a party to the conflict and in September, after the Russian army had faced several setbacks on the battlefield, Putin publicly acknowledged that Xi had "questions and concerns" about the war.
Putin said in comments on Russian television on Friday that he aimed to strengthen military cooperation with China but there was no mention of military cooperation in the CCTV report of the call.
The "no-limits" description of the Sino-Russian relationship has fallen out of favour in Beijing, at least publicly, as it seeks to avoid sanctions from the West over aiding Russia's war efforts.
Xi, however, made clear on Friday the ideological affinity between Beijing and Moscow when it came to opposing what both view as the hegemonic U.S.-led West.
"Facts have repeatedly proved that containment and suppression are unpopular, and sanctions and interference are doomed to failure," Xi told Putin.
"China is ready to work with Russia and all progressive forces around the world that oppose hegemonism and power politics...and firmly defend the sovereignty, security and development interests of both countries and international justice."
(Reporting by Eduardo Baptista; Editing by Alex Richardson and Philippa Fletcher)