Putin and Xi show solidarity with Westerners
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday showed their willingness to support each other and strengthen ties amid a crisis with westerners in their first meeting since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began.
The two leaders met on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, at a time when relations between their countries and the United States are very strained.
In this context, the rapprochement between Beijing and Moscow, whose relations are not without friction, against the United States, which it sees as hostile to its interests, stands out.
“China stands ready to work with Russia to assume its great power responsibilities, play a leading role, and bring stability and positive energy to a chaotic world,” Xi Jinping said at the beginning of the live interview.
According to Chinese state television, Xi Putin also said that China stands ready “to work with Russia to provide firm and mutual support on issues affecting each other’s core interests and to deepen cooperation.”
For his part, Mr Putin condemned Western attempts to “create a unipolar world” which “of late have taken an absolutely ugly form and are totally unacceptable”.
– “Concerns” about Ukraine? –
Their last meeting dates back to last February when the Russian President was traveling to Beijing for the Winter Olympics. They then announced their friendship “without borders”.
A few days later, Mr. Putin launched his troops against Ukraine.
While praising Mr Xi’s “balanced position” on Ukraine on Thursday, the Russian leader also said “understand (his) questions and (his) concerns” on the issue. “We will explain our position in detail,” he added without further detail.
Beijing has neither supported nor publicly criticized the Russian invasion, while repeatedly voicing support for Moscow in the face of Western sanctions.
The meeting between Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin was the most anticipated event of the SCO summit, which is scheduled to last until Friday and will be attended by several leaders, including those from India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and other countries.
For Mr. Putin, who is seeking support in the face of Western sanctions against his country after its offensive against Ukraine, whose army is in trouble, this summit allows to show that Russia is not isolated.
Before Mr. Xi, he spoke with the Presidents of Iran Ebrahim Raisi, Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov, and Turkmenistan Serdar Berdymoukhamedov.
In Samarkand, Mr Xi, who is making his first overseas trip to Central Asia since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, hopes to further strengthen his position as a prominent leader ahead of a Chinese Communist Party congress in October, where he is seeking a new mandate.
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV announced on Friday that he would meet his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi for the first time on the sidelines of the summit.
China, critical of Washington’s sanctions on Tehran, signed a 25-year strategic agreement with Iran in March 2021.
– Taiwan: Putin supports Xi –
As if to signal their rapprochement amid tensions with the West, Russian and Chinese ships on Thursday conducted a joint patrol in the Pacific Ocean to “strengthen their maritime cooperation,” Moscow said.
During Thursday’s interview, Putin reiterated Moscow’s support for Beijing over Taiwan, where visits by US officials have drawn the wrath of China in recent weeks, condemning it as a “provocation”.
The Chinese president also spoke in Samarkand with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, Moscow’s main ally, who praised Beijing’s “serious support” during “this difficult time”.
The SCO, whose members are China, Russia, India, Pakistan and four former Soviet republics of Central Asia, was founded in 2001 as an instrument for political, economic and security cooperation in competition with Western organizations.
“The Shanghai Cooperation Organization offers a real alternative to Western-oriented structures,” Kremlin diplomatic adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters on Tuesday.
The conflict in Ukraine, the situation in Afghanistan or the unrest that has shaken several Central Asian countries in recent months should be among the main topics.
Mr Putin is scheduled to hold talks with several other leaders, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday.
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