The presidents of China, Xi Jinping and Russia, Vladimir Putin, met Thursday in Uzbekistan for a regional summit that looks like a front against the West, full-blown tensions exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.
millimeter. Xi and Putin will be joined in Samarkand, a key stop on the ancient Silk Road, by the leaders of India, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran and others at a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit.
If the main meeting of this summit is to be held on Friday, then the bilateral meeting between the Chinese and Russian presidents on Thursday will be the most scrutinized, as their countries are at the center of international diplomatic crises.
For Mr Putin, who is trying to accelerate the shift to Asia in the face of Western sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, this summit is an opportunity to show that Russia is not isolated on the world stage.
Mr. Xi, who is making his first overseas trip to Central Asia since the start of the coronavirus epidemic, may cement his position as a top leader ahead of the Chinese Communist Party’s congress in October as he seeks a third unique term.
Their meeting also drew an air of defiance cast on the United States, which topped the list of sanctions against Moscow and military support for Kaif, and which angered Beijing with the visit of several US officials to Taiwan.
An “alternative” to the West
“The SCO offers a real alternative to Western-oriented structures,” Yury Ushakov, the Kremlin’s diplomatic adviser, told reporters on Tuesday.
He added that it is “the largest organization in the world and includes half the population of the planet” and works for a “just international order.”
Before the leaders reached Samarkand, which previously represented a major crossroads of trade routes between China and Europe, travel in the city was restricted, under tight security, and the airport closed to commercial flights.
AFP journalists noted that the streets of this city, known for its mosques and mausoleums covered in blue mosaics, were almost deserted on Wednesday. Schools will be closed on Thursday and Friday.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, whose membership includes China, Russia, India, Pakistan and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, was created in 2001 as a vehicle for political, economic, and security cooperation that competes with Western organizations.
It is not a military alliance like NATO or a political integration organization like the European Union, but its members work together to address common security challenges and boost trade.
The conflict in Ukraine, the situation in Afghanistan or even the turmoil that has rocked many Central Asian countries in recent months should be among the main topics discussed.
The main session of the summit will take place this week on Friday, but the main focus will be on the multiple bilateral meetings scheduled to take place on the sidelines.
Thus, in addition to Xi Jinping, Putin will meet separately on Thursday with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, whose country wants to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, and on Friday with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip. Erdogan.
Before the summit, Xi Jinping went to Kazakhstan on Wednesday, where he met the president.
The last meeting between M. Putin and Xi date back to last February, when the Russian president visited the Winter Olympics in Beijing, days before Moscow’s offensive against Ukraine began.
Without explicit support for Russian military intervention, Beijing has repeatedly expressed support for Moscow, isolated in the West, in recent months.
For its part, Moscow described the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan in August as a “provocation”.
Last month, China participated in joint military exercises in Russia, before agreeing to settle gas contracts with Moscow in rubles and yuan. It is no longer in Western currencies.