Xi and Putin meet in Uzbekistan as war in Ukraine dominates

FILE – Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for a photo during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Qingdao, eastern China’s Shandong province China, June 10, 2018. President Xi Jinping is taking advantage of his first overseas trip since the start of the pandemic to promote China’s strategic ambitions during a summit with Putin and other leaders of a group Central Asian security. AP/PTI(AP09_13_2022_000018B)

Samarkand, September 15 (PTI/AP): Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin met Thursday for talks on strengthening ties between their countries, a meeting that follows a major setback for Moscow on the battlefield in Ukraine.

The two leaders met in Uzbekistan on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a security alliance created to counter US influence that also includes India, Pakistan and four former Soviet countries in Asia. central.

Along with Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the backdrop to the summit is the brief eruption not far from the site of the event of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as tensions in relations between China with Washington, Europe, Japan and India due to disputes over technology, security and territory.

Speaking at the start of his one-on-one talks with Xi, Putin lambasted what he described as an “ugly” effort by the United States and its allies to maintain their perceived global dominance.

“Attempts to create a unipolar world have recently taken an absolutely ugly form. They are absolutely unacceptable to the vast majority of countries in the world, the Russian president said in his opening speech.

Xi was more cautious, saying that together with Russia, China stands ready to “set an example of a responsible global power and play a leading role in leading the rapidly changing world on the path to a better future.” sustainable and positive development”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, talk during their meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Thursday, September 15, 2022 .(AP/PTI)(AP09_15_2022_000139B)

The SCO summit in the ancient city of Samarkand is part of Xi’s first overseas trip since the coronavirus pandemic began 2½ years ago, underscoring Beijing’s desire to assert itself in as a regional power.

The presidents’ meeting came after Russia was forced to withdraw its forces from large swaths of northeastern Ukraine last week amid a swift Ukrainian counteroffensive. Ukraine’s regaining control of several Russian-occupied villages and towns represented Moscow’s biggest setback since its forces had to withdraw from areas near the Ukrainian capital at the start of the war.

Xi’s government, which said it had boundless friendship with Moscow before invading Ukraine in late February, has refused to criticize Russia’s military actions. Beijing and India are buying more Russian oil and gas, helping Moscow offset the impact of Western sanctions imposed during the invasion.

“We highly appreciate the balanced position of our Chinese friends in the Ukrainian crisis,” Putin said at the start of his talks with Xi.

Russia, in turn, has been strongly supportive of China amid tensions with the United States that followed a recent visit to Taiwan by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“We condemn the provocations by the United States and its satellites in the Taiwan Strait,” Putin told Xi.

Putin also met on Thursday with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, whose country is on track to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Raisi said Moscow and Tehran were finalizing a major treaty that would take their relationship to a “strategic level”.

He and Putin both criticized the United States at the start of their meeting. Raisi accused the United States of violating its obligations under Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Putin taunted US officials, saying, “They are masters of their word – they give it and take it when they want.”

The Russian leader also held meetings with Central Asian leaders and planned to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday.

Putin is also due to meet one-on-one with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Turkey and Azerbaijan have the status of dialogue partners with the SCO.

Earlier this week, Azerbaijan and Armenia engaged in cross-border bombardments that killed 176 troops on both sides, marking the most serious hostilities in nearly two years between decades-long adversaries. The fighting has placed Moscow, which has tried to maintain close ties with both countries, in a precarious position.

Putin’s meeting with Erdogan will be closely watched for their statements on Ukraine and a July deal brokered by Turkey and the UN to pave the way for exports of grain and other agricultural products stranded in Ukrainian ports of the Black Sea after the Russian invasion.

The Chinese leader is promoting a global security initiative announced in April following the formation of the Quad by Washington, Japan, Australia and India in response to Beijing’s more assertive foreign policy. Xi gave few details, but US officials complain that this echoes Russian arguments for Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.

The region is part of China’s multi-billion dollar Belt and Road initiative to expand trade by building ports, railways and other infrastructure in an arc of dozens of countries from the South Pacific to Asia , the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

On Thursday, Xi met with Kyrgyzstan’s President Sadyr Zhaparov and said Beijing supports the rapid operation of a railway project linking China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, the Chinese foreign ministry said.

China’s economic breakthroughs in Central Asia have fueled unease in Russia, which views the region as its sphere of influence.

Xi on Wednesday paid a one-day visit to Kazakhstan en route to Uzbekistan. Pope Francis was in Kazakhstan, but they did not meet.

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