BEIJING (Reuters) -- China's President Xi Jinping on Wednesday told German Chancellor Angela Merkel Sino-EU relations were facing "various challenges" and he hoped the 27-nation bloc could "independently" make correct judgements, Chinese state media reported.
In a phone call with Merkel, who has led Germany, the EU's biggest economy, since 2005, Xi said the EU and China should "respect each other" and "eliminate interference," according to a readout from the official Xinhua news agency, without naming the source of such interference.
The EU last month imposed its first significant sanctions against Chinese officials since 1989 over alleged human rights abuses in China's Xinjiang region. Beijing, which denies the allegations, quickly hit back by blacklisting some EU lawmakers and entities.
EU allies the United States, Britain and Canada also sanctioned Chinese officials over Xinjiang, and the row is threatening to derail an EU-China investment pact agreed in late 2020 after years of negotiations.
Xi also urged Germany and the EU to make joint efforts with China to maintain healthy and stable development of bilateral cooperation, according to the readout.
China is willing to work with the international community to promote "fair and reasonable distribution" of coronavirus vaccines and opposes vaccine nationalism, he added.