Putin to hold talks with Chinese President Xi this week

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin and China's new leader Xi Jinping will this week discuss political and economic issues during the Chinese president's first foreign visit, the Kremlin said on Monday.

China's Mr Xi is expected to meet with Mr Putin on Friday during a three-day visit.

The two leaders will discuss "key issues of bilateral cooperation" including energy and investments as well as the two-year crisis in Syria, the Kremlin said.

"The signing is expected of a number of important bilateral agreements aimed at developing further the strategic partnership between Russia and China," the Kremlin said without providing any details.

Russia and China have stood shoulder-to-shoulder throughout the two-year conflict in Syria, with Beijing joining its fellow permanent UN Security Council member in vetoing resolutions that would have introduced sanctions against Bashar al-Assad's regime.

But Moscow and Beijing have still failed to finalise a potentially huge gas deal which could eventually see almost 70 billion cubic metres of Russian gas pumped to China annually for the next 30 years.

Russia, which has been watching Beijing's growing economic and political might with a mixture of awe and uneasiness, wants to diversify its energy client base to Asia.

Mr Putin and Mr Xi first met in 2010 when the Chinese leader, then in the rank of vice-president, travelled to Moscow for talks.

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