Chinese President Xi Jinping cautioned the French and German leaders that sanctions on Russia could “drag down” the global economy, as Europe stepped up a lobbying campaign for China to mediate on Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine . Xi told French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday that he “deeply regretted the return of war to the European continent” and supported a diplomatic resolution to the crisis, which the United Nations said had left more than 400 civilians dead. He reiterated Beijing’s opposition to sanctions, which have become a cornerstone of the West’s response to Russian aggression, according to the Chinese government’s version of the call. “Maximum restraint” should be exercised to prevent a humanitarian disaster, Xi said, warning that sanctions will “drag down the world economy, which is already under the heavy burden of the pandemic”. “This is not beneficial to all parties,” he was quoted as saying. “We must actively advocate a common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security concept.” Xi said China was willing to maintain “coordination with France, Germany and the EU, and play an active role with the international community”. He also said the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations must be respected and that China would provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine. “We must work together to reduce the negative impacts of this crisis,” Xi was quoted as saying. A statement on the French government’s website said the three leaders “agreed to fully support all negotiations aimed at a diplomatic solution to the conflict”. The German version, meanwhile, said that “Xi gave his support to the actions of France and Germany [in working] for a ceasefire”. The three-way video summit comes amid a diplomatic flurry from the West to pressure China to help defuse the situation. Xi spoke with Macron in the days leading up to the invasion, when he called for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis. He has yet to discuss the situation with US President Joe Biden. Since then, there has been much speculation as to whether the Chinese president was aware of Putin’s plans. Beijing has denied that it had any prior knowledge of the attack. In fast-changing Europe, rage against Russia fuels suspicion of China Despite concerns over Beijing’s refusal to condemn Russia’s ongoing attack, and over the tacit rhetorical support it has offered Moscow, European officials believe the gravity of the situation means it is imperative to enlist China to intervene. “China has the potential to reach out to Moscow because of the relationship obviously and we would like China to use its influence to press for a ceasefire and to make Russia to stop the brutal unprecedented shelling and killing of civilians in Ukraine,” EU foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano told the South China Morning Post . On Monday, the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell spoke to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi for a second time since the invasion began 12 days ago. Borrell thanked China for abstaining on votes condemning Russia at the United Nations and “expressed appreciation for China’s readiness to support cessation of hostilities and dialogue”, said an EU report on the meeting. He also asked Beijing to support the establishment of a humanitarian corridor . Wang said the international community should support talks between Ukraine and Russia for a ceasefire and peaceful resolution of the conflict. “China is willing to continue to play a constructive role in de-escalating the situation to the best of its ability,” the Chinese foreign ministry quoted Wang as saying. But at a press conference with foreign reporters earlier in the day, Wang offered his strongest support yet for Moscow, saying that the relationship with Russia was “rock solid”. “Relations between China and Russia will not be influenced by any third party,” Wang said during his annual news briefing on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress. Officials in Kyiv have also encouraged China to exert its influence to sway Russia. Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, told an online press conference on Saturday that “China is interested in stopping this war”, the Financial Times reported. “Chinese diplomacy has sufficient tools to make a difference and we count that it is already involved … and that their efforts will be successful,” he said. Exchanges between US and Chinese officials have been more prickly. Over the weekend, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Wang and pressed him to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “The secretary noted the world is watching to see which nations stand up for the basic principles of freedom, self-determination and sovereignty,” said Ned Price, the State Department spokesman. “He underscored that the world is acting in unison to repudiate and respond to the Russian aggression, ensuring that Moscow will pay a high price.” According to Chinese state media, Wang told Blinken that China’s stance on the Ukraine “issue” was “based on the merits of the matter concerned”. Blinken continued the tough rhetoric on a trip through Europe this week. At a press conference in Vilnius on Monday, he told Beijing that “actions speak louder than words”. “Beijing talks a lot about the importance of upholding the international order, stability, and respecting sovereignty,” Blinken said. “But from its coercion of Vilnius, to its failure thus far to condemn Moscow’s flagrant violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine today and in 2014, Beijing’s actions are speaking much louder than its words.” A debate is being waged at the upper echelons of the Biden administration in Washington, meanwhile, on whether to seek Beijing’s cooperation in enforcing sanctions and convincing Russia to de-escalate its bloody invasion of Ukraine. Russian deputy foreign minister Igor Morgulov met China’s ambassador to Russia, Zhang Hanhui, earlier on Tuesday, the Russian foreign ministry said, without giving details of what was discussed.