Xi and Putin Meet in Uzbekistan for Security Summit
The two leaders spearhead the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which acts as a counterbalance to Western influence.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin were holding in-person talks on Thursday on the sidelines of a security summit.
Putin praised China's "balanced" approach to Ukraine during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
It was their first bilateral talks since the beginning of the Russian invasion into Ukraine.
Indirectly criticizing the United States, Putin said: "Attempts to create a unipolar world have recently acquired an absolutely ugly form and are completely unacceptable."
The summit in Uzbekistan's capital, Samarkand, also includes meetings with leaders from India and Central Asian countries.
Samarkand is part of China's multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to expand trade by building infrastructure across countries from the South Pacific through Asia to the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
Bilateral talks on the sidelines
The main sessions of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit are scheduled for Friday, but most of its focus will be on bilateral talks.
Putin spoke with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi after Iran's foreign minister that Tehran had signed a memorandum to join the grouping.
Tehran had acted as an observer of the SCO band until now.
"The relationship between countries that are sanctioned by the US, such as Iran, Russia or other countries, can overcome many problems and issues and make them stronger," Raisi said in the meeting with Putin.
"The Americans think whichever country they impose sanctions on, it will be stopped, their perception is a wrong one," he added.
Putin said that the cooperation was developing in "positively."
The Russian leader was also expected to meet with Pakistani, Indian and Turkish leaders.
Turkey has played an influential role in navigating grain shipments from Ukraine during the Russian invasion.
It is unclear who Xi will meet bilaterally. Talks with India's Modi last occurred in 2019, as the relations between China and India became sensitive after deadly fighting in 2020 on the Himalayan border.
Prior to traveling to Uzbekistan, Xi had made a short one-day visit to Kazakhstan on Wednesday.
Seeking to counter the West
Set up in 2001, the SCO refers to an eight-nation group made up of China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. They cooperate on matters that are political, economic and security related.
China and Russia set up the group and spearhead it in a bid to counterbalance US influence.
"The SCO offers a real alternative to Western-centric organizations," Kremlin foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters in Moscow this week.
"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."
In total, the SCO represents an audience of half of the world's population.
Andrew Small, a senior transatlantic fellow with the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told DW that the gathering had a highly symbolic value.
"It means [Xi] can put on this strong show of a non-Western gathering counterpoint to G7, to NATO as an organization, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, that is of China's own creation," Small said.
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