SAMARKAND | Chinese Presidents Xi Jinping and Russian President 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.
< p>But the solidarity between the participants of the summit showed some fractures. Thus, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing Mr. Putin, argued that “the time is not for war”, while Moscow is militarily engaged in Ukraine.
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.
Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin are the headliners of this summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) — a group that intends to compete with Western institutions — organized in Samarkand (Uzbekistan).
This event comes at a time when Moscow and Beijing have extremely strained relations with Washington due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and US support for Taiwan.
During the main session of the summit, Xi called on the gathered leaders to “work together to promote an international order that moves in a more just direction”.
It should “let go of zero-sum games and the politics of creating blocs,” 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 new centers of power” which, according to him, “is becoming more and more evident”.
Mr. Putin claimed that cooperation between SCO member countries, unlike the West, was based on “unselfish” principles.
“Not the time war”
Signs of disagreement did not fail to appear, however.
“Excellency, I know that the hour is not to war,” Indian leader Narendra Modi told Putin at the start of a face-to-face meeting.
Mr Putin, in response, said he heard his “concerns”, affirmed that he would “do everything” so that the conflict in Ukraine “ends as soon as possible”, while assuring that Kyiv refused “any process of negotiation”.
The SCO, whose members are China, Russia, India, Pakistan and four former Soviet republics of Central Asia, was established in 2001 as a platform cooperation of 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.
About 19,000 people have been evacuated from border areas on the Kyrgyz side, and armed incidents have continued despite the ceasefire.
MM. 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.
For his part, Vladimir Putin, during of a meeting with Mr. Erdogan, said he was ready to “significantly” increase all Russian exports to Turkey, especially energy.
Moscow in search of allies
Russia has since been targeted by heavy Western economic sanctions and is increasingly turning to Asia for economic and diplomatic support.
During a meeting with Mr. Xi on Thursday, Mr. Putin thanked his Chinese counterpart for his “balanced stance” on Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, while promising him “explanations” for his “concerns”.
Mr. Xi, who is making his first trip abroad since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, hopes to further strengthen his stature as a major leader ahead of a Chinese Communist Party congress in October, during which he will seek a new mandate.
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 by Mr. Xi to strengthen trade links with the world.
Ahead of the summit, Mr. Xi had visited Kazakhstan on Wednesday, promising to help it “safeguard its sovereignty” while this country, traditionally an ally of Moscow, worries about Russian ambitions after the invasion of Ukraine.
Mr. Xi also met on Friday with Mr. Erdogan and Iranian leader Ebrahim Raisi, at a time when negotiations on the Iranian nuclear are slipping.
No meeting has been announced, however, between MM. Xi and Modi, both of whom are nuclear powers, have been going through a tense period since border clashes in 2020.