France says to give China envoy ‘stern rebuke’ after his remarks on ex-Soviet states

The French government will use a scheduled meeting with China’s ambassador in Paris on Monday for a “stern rebuke” after his remarks on post-Soviet states sparked outrage, the foreign ministry said.

Beijing’s ambassador to France Lu Shaye triggered a furor by saying on French television that countries that emerged after the fall of the Soviet Union “don’t have effective status under international law because there is not an international agreement confirming their status as sovereign nations.”

An official at the French foreign ministry told AFP that a meeting of its chief of staff with the Chinese ambassador – which had been scheduled before he made the controversial remarks – “will be an opportunity for a stern rebuke.”

Lu’s comments on Friday sparked a wave of outrage across Europe, leading the EU’s three Baltic countries on Monday to summon China’s envoys to explain the remarks.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis wrote on Twitter that “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.”

The ambassador’s comments appeared to refer not just to Ukraine, which Russia invaded in February 2022, but also to all former Soviet republics which emerged as independent nations after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, including members of the European Union.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell branded the remarks “unacceptable,” adding in a tweet that the European Union “can only suppose these declarations do not represent China’s official policy.”

China meanwhile walked back the remarks, saying Monday that it respected the “sovereign state status” of all ex-Soviet countries.

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