Xi, Putin meet in Uzbekistan, Ukraine war dominates

SAARCAND, Uzbekistan (AP) – Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin held talks on Thursday to enhance ties between their countries, an encounter that is a major blow to Moscow on the battlefield in Ukraine.

The two leaders met in Uzbekistan on the sidelines of the eight-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a security alliance formed as a countermeasure to US influence that also includes India, Pakistan and four former Soviet nations in Central Asia.

Along with Russia’s attack on UkraineThe summit comes in the backdrop of a brief explosion of tensions in China’s relations with Washington, Europe, Japan and India due to disputes over technology, security and territory as well as the site of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

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

“Efforts to create a unipolar world have recently taken an absolutely ugly form. They are absolutely unacceptable for most countries of the world, ”said the Russian president in the opening remarks.

Xi was more careful, saying that along with Russia, China was “ready to play a leading role in setting an example of a responsible world power and leading the rapidly changing world to a path of sustainable and positive development.”

The SCO summit in the ancient city of Samarkand is part of Xi’s first foreign trip since the start of the coronavirus pandemic 2 1/2 years ago, underscoring Beijing’s desire to establish itself as a regional power.

The presidents’ meeting came as Russia was forced to withdraw its forces from large areas of northeastern Ukraine last week amid a swift retaliatory strike by Ukraine. Ukraine gained control of several Russian-occupied villages and cities, representing Moscow’s biggest setback as its forces had to retreat from areas near the Ukrainian capital at the start of the war.

Xi’s government, which said it had a “no borders” friendship with Moscow before its invasion of Ukraine in late February, has refused to criticize Russia’s military actions. Beijing and India are buying more Russian oil and gas, which helps Moscow offset the impact of Western sanctions imposed on the invasion.

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

Russia, in turn, has strongly supported China amid tensions with the US, following a recent visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.

“We condemn the provocation of the US and its satellites in the Taiwan Strait,” Putin told Xi.

Putin also met on Thursday with Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi, whose country is on its way to join the SCO. Raisi said Moscow and Tehran were finalizing a major treaty that would bring their ties to a “strategic level”.

Both he and Putin criticized the US at the start of their meeting. Raisi accused the US of violating its obligations under Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Putin rebuked US officials, saying, “They are the masters of their word – they give it and then take it back whenever they want.”

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

There was no indication whether Modi might meet Xi. Relations between India and China have been strained due to skirmishes between soldiers of the countries over a border dispute over a remote region of the Himalayas.

Putin is also scheduled to meet face-to-face with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev. Turkey and Azerbaijan have the status of “dialogue partners” with the SCO.

Earlier this week, Azerbaijan and Armenia opened fire from across the border, killing 176 soldiers from both sides, marking the most severe hostilities in nearly two years between decades-long adversaries. The fighting has put Moscow in a precarious position, which has tried to maintain close ties with both countries.

Putin’s meeting with Erdogan will be seen by his statements on Ukraine and a July deal by Turkey and the United Nations to clear the way for exports of grain and other agricultural products to Ukraine’s Black Sea ports after the Russian invasion. were stuck.

Chinese leader Quad. are promoting the “Global Security Initiative” announced in April after the formation of by Washington, Japan, Australia and India in response to Beijing’s more assertive foreign policy. Xi gave few details, but US officials complain it echoes Russian arguments in support of 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 dozens of countries, from the South Pacific through Asia to the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

On Thursday, Xi met with Kyrgyz President Sadir Zhaparov and said Beijing supports the “early operation” of a planned railway linking China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, the Chinese foreign ministry said.

China’s economic penetration Discomfort in Central Asia has grown in Russia, which sees the region as its sphere of influence.

On Wednesday, Xi made a one-day visit to Kazakhstan en route to Uzbekistan. Pope Francis was in KazakhstanBut they did not meet.

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