Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived Tuesday at Beijing, where he must meet his counterpart and ally; Xi Jinping, at the opportunity for a major multilateral summit at a time when the world has its eyes on the Israel-Hamas war.
China is hosting representatives from some 130 countries until Wednesday for the “New Silk Roads” forum (officially called “The Belt and Road”), a major diplomatic event which should help strengthen its international stature. /p>
High-profile guest, Vladimir Putin is making his first trip to a major world power since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, which contributed to isolating Russia from many other states.
After Kyrgyzstan, this is his second trip abroad since the arrest warrant issued against him in March by the International Criminal Court – of which China is not a member – for the “deportation” of children Ukrainians.
The Russian president is due to meet with Xi Jinping on Wednesday, Moscow said, at a time when the war rages between Israel and the Palestinian armed Islamist organization Hamas.
The two men “will discuss in a friendly and frank manner (…) urgent problems of bilateral practical cooperation and the international agenda”, explained the Kremlin.
Western countries have mostly rallied behind Israel since October 7, when Hamas fighters crossed the border between the Gaza Strip and the Jewish state to massacre more than 1,400 people – most of them civilians.
Washington called on Beijing to use its “influence” to calm the situation in the region, where Israeli retaliatory bombings on Gaza have killed at least 2,750 people, the majority Palestinian civilians, according to local authorities.
< p>– Israel and Ukraine –
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping toast on March 21, 2023 in Moscow © SPUTNIK – Pavel Byrkin
In March, China sponsored the spectacular agreement to restore diplomatic relations between Iran – support of Hamas – and Saudi Arabia.
Beijing will also send its envoy for the Middle East, Zhai Jun, to the region this week. No details were given about his trip, but state television CCTV said he would push for a ceasefire and peace talks.
Russia, which maintains traditionally on good relations with Israeli and Palestinian authorities, called for an “immediate ceasefire” in the conflict.
Heavily sanctioned by the West because of its offensive against Ukraine, Russia has been seeking for several months to strengthen its already very good ties with China, which seems to have gained the upper hand in their bilateral relations – unbalanced with China. Russian weakening due to the war.
Beijing has been criticized by the West on the Ukrainian issue. Because if he calls for respect for the territorial integrity of all countries – implying Ukraine included – he has never publicly condemned Moscow.
Smoke rises into the sky after an Israeli airstrike, the October 16, 2023 in Rafah in the Gaza Strip © AFP – SAID KHATIB
The New Silk Roads forum therefore offers an opportunity for Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping to reaffirm their understanding, but few experts expect major announcements.
“Russia is aware that China does not want to sign agreements with great publicity,” Alexander Gabuev, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center, told AFP.
“It’s China that holds all the cards,” he insists.
– Xi meets Orban –
On the sidelines of the New Silk Roads forum which officially begins Tuesday, Xi Jinping met with Kazakh Presidents Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Chilean President Gabriel Boric, as well as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the official Xinhua news agency said. .
The Russian and Chinese foreign ministers met Monday in Beijing.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi meet on October 16, 2023 in Beijing © RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY – Handout
Sergueï Lavrov thanked China for making Vladimir Putin the ” main guest” of the forum.
In return, his counterpart Wang Yi said that China “appreciates” Russian support for its Belt and Road initiative.
In March Last year, Vladimir Putin received Xi Jinping in Russia and they had already displayed their understanding, advocating a strengthening of economic and military cooperation to counter what they present as American hegemony.
The personal relationship between the two men, who mutually described themselves as “dear friends”, is at the heart of this rapprochement.
“President Xi Jinping calls me his friend and I also call him my friend,” Mr. Putin said before his visit in an interview with Chinese television.
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