Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping praise ‘great power’ links in talks that defy the West

SAMARKAND, UZBEKISTAN: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping held their first face-to-face talks since the start of the conflict in Ukraine on Thursday, defiantly praising their strategic ties.

Seated opposite each other at two long round tables and flanked by aides-de-camp, the two leaders met on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in former Soviet Uzbekistan.

The meeting was part of Xi’s first trip abroad since the pandemic began. For Putin, it was a chance to show that despite Western efforts, Russia has not been completely isolated.

“China stands ready to join efforts with Russia to assume the role of great powers and play a leading role in bringing stability and positive energy to a world shaken by social unrest,” Xi Putin said at the talks.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV also quoted Xi as saying China is willing to work with Russia to support “the other’s core interests.”

Xi also met his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who met on Friday on the sidelines of the summit and urged “political mutual trust” between the two sides at a regional security meeting in Central Asia.

Turkey is a dialogue partner of the SCO.

“The two sides should strengthen political mutual trust, respect each other’s core interests, and solidify the political foundation of China-Turkey strategic cooperative relations,” Xi said, according to CCTV.

“We should focus on development cooperation (and) make full use of the role of the various cooperation mechanisms and the respective strengths between the two countries,” China’s head of state reportedly said.

Putin, meanwhile, took a clear broadside against the United States, which was spearheading efforts to support Ukraine and impose sanctions on Russia.

“Attempts to create a unipolar world have recently taken an absolutely ugly form and are totally unacceptable,” Putin said.

“We greatly appreciate the balanced position of our Chinese friends on the Ukraine crisis,” Putin told Xi, while reaffirming Moscow’s support for China on Taiwan.

“We adhere to the principle of one China. We condemn the provocation by the US and its satellites in the Taiwan Strait,” Putin said after a US Senate committee Wednesday took the first step toward Washington directing billions of dollars in military aid to Taiwan.

It was the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since Putin saw Xi attend the Beijing Winter Olympics in early February, days before the Russian leader launched the military offensive in Ukraine.

The Kremlin has touted the SCO summit in the ancient Silk Road city of Samarkand as proof that there is an “alternative” to Western-dominated international institutions.

The SCO – consisting of China, India, Pakistan, Russia and the former Soviet Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – was founded in 2001 as a political, economic and security organization to compete with Western institutions.

Putin earlier Thursday met with the leaders of Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan, as well as Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

To both Raisi and Sharif, he said ties were “developing positively,” while Iranian leader Putin said US-backed sanctions on both countries would only make their relationship “stronger.”

“Americans think whatever country they impose sanctions on, it will be stopped. Your perception is wrong,” said Raisi.

For Putin, the summit comes at an important time as his forces face major battlefield setbacks in Ukraine and amid an ongoing Western push to turn Russia into an international pariah.

For Xi, it’s an opportunity to cement his credentials as a global statesman ahead of a crucial congress of the ruling Communist Party in October.

The Chinese leader also met with the leader of the Belarusian ruler, Alexander Lukashenko, on Thursday, who was quoted by the state news agency Belta as thanking Xi for China’s “serious support in these difficult times.”

Lukashenko has been shunned by Western leaders after he cracked down on the opposition and backed Russia in Ukraine two years ago.

Chinese state media said Xi will also meet with Erdogan on Friday.

China and Russia, former Cold War allies with a tumultuous relationship, have grown closer in recent years in what they call an “unlimited” relationship that acts as a counterbalance to global dominance by the United States.

The two countries have also intensified military cooperation, with China sending hundreds of troops last month to take part in military exercises in Russia’s Far East.

The Defense Ministry in Moscow announced on Thursday that Russian and Chinese warships are on a joint patrol in the Pacific and are planning a live artillery drill at sea.

Other global leaders have sounded the alarm over deepening ties between Moscow and Beijing.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said China and Russia “share a vision for the world that is at odds with the vision that is at the heart of the international system, the vision that has been expressed for the past eight years in the United States.” The center of the international system was decades.”

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said the two countries would do harm to “international peace, stability, democracy and freedom.”

Putin was also scheduled to hold talks with Erdogan and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday.

Security in Samarkand — a city with large tiled mosques that was one of the hubs of the Silk Road trade routes between China and Europe — was tight, with a huge police presence on the streets and armored vehicles parked downtown.

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