LChinese Presidents Xi Jinping and Russian Vladimir Putin posed as a counterweight to Western influence on Friday at a regional summit bringing together several countries with strained relations with the United States.
But the solidarity between the participants of the summit showed some fractures. Thus, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing the Russian President, argued that “the time is not for war”, while Moscow is engaged militarily in Ukraine.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reacted by saying that Russia was under “pressure” to complete its intervention against kyiv, after the “concerns” expressed by Beijing and Delhi on the subject during the summit. At the same time, two Central Asian countries, whose leaders are present at the summit, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, clashed in border battles that left dozens injured, prompting the announcement of a ceasefire. emergency fire.
This event comes at a time when Moscow and Beijing have extremely strained relations with Washington due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and American support for Taiwan.
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Putin “in no hurry” in Ukraine
During the main session of the summit, the Chinese president called on the gathered leaders to “work together to promote an international order that moves in a more just direction”. Zero-sum games and the politics of building blocks should be “abandoned”, he continued. He did not name any country, but Beijing generally uses this vocabulary to denounce the United States and its close allies.
The Russian president, for his part, welcomed the “increasing role of the new centers of power” which, according to him, “is becoming more and more evident”. Vladimir Putin said that cooperation between SCO member countries, unlike the West, was based on “unselfish” principles. However, signs of disagreement did not fail to appear. “Excellence, I know this is not the time for war,” Indian leader Narendra Modi told Vladimir Putin at the start of a one-on-one meeting.
The Russian head of state, in response, said he heard his “concerns”, using a formula he had had the day before with Xi Jinping. The Russian President told the Prime Minister that he would “do everything” to ensure that the conflict in Ukraine “ends as soon as possible”.
But, speaking a little later to the Russian press, Mr. Putin declared that Moscow was in no hurry to complete its “key objective” in Ukraine: the conquest of Donbass, a region in the south-east of the country in part controlled by the Russian army. “The plan (of operations, editor’s note) does not require any change […] we are in no hurry,” Putin said.
Moscow in search of allies
The SCO, whose members are China, Russia, India, Pakistan and four former Soviet republics in Central Asia, was established in 2001 as a platform for cooperation competing with Western organizations. But significant differences remain within the alliance. The leaders of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan met urgently at the summit to announce a ceasefire after an escalation of violence on the disputed border between these two Central Asian countries.
Putin and Xi also met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who called for an end to the war in Ukraine “as soon as possible through diplomatic channels”. Recently, Ankara played a key role in finding an agreement between Moscow and kyiv on the export of cereals from Ukraine, vital for many countries around the world.
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Russia has since been targeted by heavy Western economic sanctions and is increasingly turning to Asia for economic and diplomatic support. The choice of Central Asia as the first foreign destination in more than two years illustrates above all the importance that Beijing attaches to this region, which is crossed by the “new silk roads”, a titanic project carried out by Xi Jinping to strengthen trade links with the world.
Before the summit, the Chinese head of state went to Kazakhstan on Wednesday, promising to help it “safeguard its sovereignty” as this country worries about Russian ambitions after the invasion of Ukraine. Xi Jinping also met on Friday with the Turkish head of state and Iranian leader Ebrahim Raisi, at a time when the Iranian nuclear negotiations are slipping.