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Belarus President Lukashenko heading to China second time this year


(Reuters) -Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was heading to Beijing on Sunday for talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Belarusian state media reported, the second trip of the close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin to China this year.

Lukashenko, who according to Chinese state media was welcomed with a gun salute and military honours during his official Feb 3. 28 – March 2 visit, was this time heading for “a working visit,” BelTA state news agency reported.

“Negotiations between the head of the Belarusian state and president of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping will take place in Beijing,” BelTA said, citing Lukashenko’s press service.

“The agenda includes issues of trade, economic, investment and international cooperation.”

After their first talks this year, Xi said that the China-Belarus “friendship is unbreakable, and the two sides should constantly enhance political mutual trust and remain each other’s true friends and good partners.”

Lukashenko, the president of Belarus since 1994 who has been shunned by the West, backed Russia’s invasion in Ukraine in February 2022 by allowing Moscow to use its territory to launch the war.

China maintains close ties to Russia and has never condemned its invasion of Ukraine, but Beijing became vocal earlier this year in calling for peace as the Ukraine conflict drags on.

After their March 1 meeting, both Lukashenko and Xi called for the “soonest possible” peace deal for Ukraine. But the war, now in its 22nd month, has no end in sight, with neither side willing to compromise to negotiate.

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Editing by William Mallard/Guy Faulconbridge)

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