Putin and Xi meet amid tensions with the West

Putin and Xi meet amid tensions with the West

MM Xi and Putin will be joined by leaders of India, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran and other countries for the two-day summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in the city of Samarkand, a key stop on the ancient Silk Road.

If the main meeting of this summit takes place on Friday, then Thursday will be the most scrutinized bilateral meeting between the Chinese and Russian presidents, their countries at the center of international diplomatic crises.

Vladimir Putin arrived in Samarkand by plane on Thursday morning. He was greeted on the tarmac by an honor guard. His Chinese counterpart had arrived a day earlier.

For Mr. Putin, who is trying to accelerate a turn towards Asia to face Western sanctions against Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, this summit is an opportunity to show that Russia is on the world scene. is not isolated.

Mr. Xi, who is making his first overseas trip to Central Asia since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, may further cement his stature as a top leader ahead of a Chinese Communist Party Congress in October, where he aims for the third Has a unique mandate.

Their meeting also threw an air of defiance in the United States, which led to sanctions against Moscow and military support for Kyiv and aroused the wrath of Beijing with the visits of several US officials to Taiwan.

“Alternative” to the West

“The Shanghai Cooperation Organization offers a real alternative to Western-oriented structures,” Kremlin diplomatic adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters on Tuesday.

He said it is “the largest organization in the world, comprising half the planet’s population” and that it works for a “just international order”.

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Prior to the leaders’ arrival in Samarkand, a former major crossroads of trade routes between China and Europe, movement in the city was kept amid high security, restricted and the airport closed to commercial flights. was.

In this city famous for its mosques and mausoleums covered with blue mosaics, residents seemed so happy. “We are proud to have many heads of state from different countries meeting in our city,” 26-year-old Sheikhbos Kombarov told AFP.

The SCO, whose members are China, Russia, India, Pakistan and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, was created in 2001 as a tool for political, economic and security cooperation competing with Western organizations.

It is not a military alliance like NATO, nor a political integration organization like the European Union, but its members work together to solve common security challenges and promote trade.

The conflict in Ukraine, the situation in Afghanistan or even the unrest that has rocked several Central Asian countries in recent months should be among the main topics of discussion.

bilateral meetings

Besides Xi Jinping, Putin will separately meet on Thursday with Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi, whose country is keen to join the SCO, and Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif. Will be with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday.

Ahead of the summit, Xi Jinping visited Kazakhstan on Wednesday, where he called on the president.

The last meeting between MM Putin and Xi dates back to last February, when the Russian president visited the Winter Olympics in Beijing, days before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Beijing has repeatedly expressed its support for Moscow, which is isolated in the West, in recent months, without explicitly endorsing Russian intervention. Moscow, for its part, supported China’s position during the recent tensions around Taiwan.

Last month, Beijing also participated in joint military maneuvers in Russia, before agreeing to settle its gas contracts with Moscow in rubles and yuan. And no longer in western currencies.

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