Russian embassy staff among at least 6 killed in Kabul bombing

Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping hail ‘great power’ ties in talks challenging the West

SAMARKAND, Uzbekistan (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met on Thursday for their first face-to-face talks since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, hailing their strategic ties in defiance of the West.

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

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

“China is ready to make efforts with Russia to assume the role of great powers and play a leading role in instilling stability and positive energy in a world rocked by social unrest,” Xi told Putin during the talks.

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

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

Turkey is a dialogue partner of the SCO.

“Both sides should consolidate 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) give full play to the role of various cooperation mechanisms and respective strengths between the two countries,” the Chinese leader said.

Meanwhile, Putin has clearly taken the lead over the United States, which has led efforts to support Ukraine and impose sanctions on Russia.

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

“We highly appreciate the balanced position of our Chinese friends on the Ukrainian crisis,” Putin told Xi, while reiterating Moscow’s support for China in Taiwan.

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

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

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

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

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

With Raisi and Sharif, he said ties were “developing in a positive way”, while the Iranian leader told Putin that US-backed sanctions against the two countries would only make their relationship “stronger. “.

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

For Putin, the summit comes at an important time, as his forces face major setbacks on the battlefield in Ukraine and amid a continued push by the West to make Russia an international pariah.

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

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

Lukashenko has been shunned by Western leaders after a fierce crackdown on the opposition two years ago and for backing Russia over Ukraine.

Chinese state media said Xi would also meet Erdogan on Friday.

Former Cold War allies with a tumultuous relationship, China and Russia have grown closer in recent years in what they call a “no limits” relationship acting as a counterweight to US global dominance.

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

The Defense Ministry in Moscow said Thursday that Russian and Chinese warships were conducting a joint patrol in the Pacific and planning a live-fire artillery exercise at sea.

Other world leaders have sounded the alarm about the deepening ties between Moscow and Beijing.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said China and Russia “share a worldview that is in stark contrast to the vision that is at the center of the international system, the vision that has been at the center of the international system for the past eight years”. decades.”

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said the two countries were undermining “international peace, stability, democracy and freedom.”

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

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