The UK would welcome an intervention by Chinese president Xi Jinping to help broker a peace deal between Ukraine and Russia, according to the Foreign Secretary.
Speaking during a visit to the US, James Cleverly said Britain would not be critical if Mr Xi chose to use his “significant degree of influence” with Russian president Vladimir Putin to bring about a “just and sustainable” peace settlement.
The Cabinet minister also warned the West that it had to be ready for the expected spring offensive by Kyiv to fail to make a decisive breakthrough against Russia’s troops.
Taking questions during an event hosted by the Atlantic Council, Mr Cleverly was asked for his view on whether the West should be open to Beijing playing a role in trying to co-ordinate a ceasefire in eastern Europe.
China, which has said it wants to act as mediator in Russia’s war with Ukraine, has tried to appear neutral but has refused to criticise the Kremlin’s invasion.
Mr Cleverly said: “I would welcome the intervention that brought this war to a just and sustainable conclusion from wherever it came.
“And I don’t think we should be dog in the manger about this. We know that Xi enjoys a significant degree of influence with Vladimir Putin.
“If he can use that influence to deliver on what he has publicly stated that he feels strongly about — which is sovereignty, territory, integrity, the non-threat of use of nuclear weapons — then why would we be critical of that intervention if it is meaningful and if he actually delivers upon it? (Those are) two big ‘ifs’.
“But if through his intervention he can help restore the sovereignty of Ukraine and get Russian troops out of that country, then I’m not going to be critical of that.
“But it needs to be more than just headline-grabbing stuff, it needs to be genuine intervention.”
Mr Cleverly also said the West needed to be braced for the 15-month conflict in Ukraine to get “scary” as he warned it may not follow a Hollywood script.
He urged the UK and its allies to “stick with” Kyiv, arguing it was better to be dealing with the threat of Moscow now rather than have to put more resources into battling Mr Putin’s aggression further down the line.
The comments come against the backdrop of long-held expectations that Ukraine is planning a counterpunch offensive in a bid to push the Kremlin’s troops back from the current frontlines.
“We need to recognise that there might not be a simple, quick, decisive breakthrough,” Mr Cleverly said.
“And the point that we’ve made in the UK is that we have to stick with them.
“Now I hope and expect they’ll do very well because whenever I’ve seen Ukrainians, they’ve outperformed expectations. But we have to be realistic. This is the real world, this is not a Hollywood movie.
“Things are complicated, things are messy, things are difficult, things will get scary.
“We will expect to hear escalatory words coming out of Vladimir Putin’s lips — we need to be ready for that, we need to have the resolve to continue to do the right thing, notwithstanding those comments.”
Asked whether he thought the West’s armed response had been “commensurate” with the challenge posed by Russia, Mr Cleverly added: “There is a strong argument that we shouldn’t leave our respective military cupboards bare.
“My answer is that: if we’re saving stuff up for a rainy day, this is the rainy day.”