Putin, Xi to discuss Ukraine and Taiwan; SCO summit to showcase 'alternative' to West: Kremlin

The meeting between Mr Xi and Mr Putin in Uzbekistan will take place on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation's summit. PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW - Russia's Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping will discuss Ukraine and Taiwan at a meeting in Uzbekistan on Thursday which the Kremlin said would hold "special significance" given the geopolitical situation.

Mr Xi will leave China for the first time in more than two years for a trip this week to Central Asia where he will meet Mr Putin, just a month before he is set to cement his place as the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong.

"The presidents will discuss both the bilateral agenda and the main regional and international topics," Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said at a briefing in Moscow.

"Naturally, they will give a positive assessment of the unprecedentedly high level of trust within the bilateral strategic partnership," he added.

The deepening "no limits" partnership between the rising superpower of China and the natural resources titan of Russia is a geopolitical development the West is watching with anxiety.

The meeting will give Mr Xi an opportunity to underscore his clout while Mr Putin can demonstrate Russia's tilt towards Asia; both leaders can show their opposition to the United States just as the West seeks to punish Russia for what Moscow calls a "special military operation" in Ukraine.

According to the Kremlin, trade turnover between the countries rose reached US$140 billion (S$197 billion) in 2021, while for the first seven months of this year it totalled almost US$93 billion.

China is Russia's largest buyer of oil, one of the key sources of revenues for Moscow's state coffers.

Russia is also striving to boost its gas sales to China and build new pipelines to the country as its gas supplies to Europe have been significantly curtailed amid the stand off over Ukraine.

Mr Ushakov said Moscow values China's position towards what he called the "Ukraine crisis", saying Beijing had struck a "balanced approach" towards the conflict.

China "clearly understands the reasons that forced Russia to launch its special military operation. This issue, of course, will be thoroughly discussed during the upcoming meeting," Mr Ushakov said.

The meeting between Mr Xi and Mr Putin in Uzbekistan will take place on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation's (SCO) summit in the ancient Silk Road city of Samarkand in Uzbekistan.

The SCO summit will showcase an "alternative" to the Western world, the Kremlin said on Tuesday.

Mr Putin and Mr Xi will be joined by the leaders of India, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran and several other countries for the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in the Uzbek city of Samarkand on Thursday and Friday.

The SCO - made up of China, Russia, India, Pakistan and four ex-Soviet Central Asian countries - was set up in 2001 as a political, economic and security organisation to rival Western institutions.

"The SCO offers a real alternative to Western-centric organisations," Mr Ushakov said.

"All members of the SCO stand for a just world order," he said, describing the summit as taking place "against the background of large-scale geopolitical changes".

The SCO, he said, "is the largest organisation in the world, it includes half the population of our planet".

Mr Ushakov said no new energy deals with China are expected to be signed in Uzbekistan.

Besides Mr Xi, Mr Putin will also hold talks with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday, Mr Ushakov said, before attending the main session of the summit on Friday.

On Friday Mr Putin will also meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev. REUTERS, AFP

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