04 July 2024

Xi and Putin attend regional security summit to counter Western alliances

04 July 2024

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have attended the summit of a security grouping created by Moscow and Beijing to counter Western alliances.

Mr Putin and Mr Xi joined the leaders of other countries that are members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at its annual meeting in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana.

The grouping was established in 2001 by China, Russia and four ex-Soviet Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to promote regional security and economic cooperation.

It was later joined by India, Pakistan and Iran.

Russia’s western neighbour and ally, Belarus, also joined the SCO on Thursday.

Observer states and dialogue partners include Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Addressing the summit, Mr Putin emphasised the group’s focus on ensuring security of its members and noted that the SCO will form a dedicated centre that will coordinate response to various security challenges.

He added that the group’s members will also endorse a special programme to fight separatism and extremism.

Mr Xi called on the SCO members to show solidarity in the face “the real challenges of intervention and polarisation”, according to a transcript of his speech by the official Xinhua news agency.

“In the face of the real threat of the Cold War mentality, we have to safeguard the security bottom line,” he added.

Besides Mr Putin and Mr Xi, and summit host Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, attending Thursday’s meeting are Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif of Pakistan, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan, President Emomali Rakhmon of Tajikistan, President Sadyr Zhaparov of Kyrgyzstan and President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India has sent his foreign minister. Indian media reports speculated the recently re-elected Modi was busy with the parliament session that began last week.

Iran is still choosing a successor to President Ebrahim Raisi, who was killed in a helicopter crash in May, with a run-off election on Friday. Acting President Mohammad Mokhbar will attend the summit.

During a meeting with the Russian leader on the side-lines of the summit, Mr Mokhber conveyed a message to Mr Putin from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, saying that “deep and unchangeable” relations between the two allies will remain strong irrespective of the election.

Mr Mokhber added that strong ties between Moscow and Tehran have changed “the power equations in the world”.

Other guests of the SCO include President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan.

Also present is UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who is visiting Central Asia.

For Mr Putin, the summit offered another venue to demonstrate the failure of Western efforts to isolate Russia over its 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Putin mentioned his statement in June that the hostilities could end if Ukraine withdraws its troops from the four regions that Moscow annexed in 2022 and abandons its bid to join Nato. Kyiv and its allies have rejected the idea.

Mr Putin also thanked SCO members for their proposals for a peace settlement, adding that Moscow will take them into account.

Moscow has hailed a peace plan for Ukraine offered by China last year that was rejected by both Ukraine and the West for failing to call for Russia to leave occupied parts of Ukraine.

Mr Putin later told Russian reporters that he has noted claims by Donald Trump, the presumed Republican candidate in the US presidential election, that he can resolve the Ukraine crisis and said: “We take this quite seriously.”

However, he said he has no details about what Mr Trump might propose.

At a meeting with Mr Xi on Wednesday, Mr Putin hailed the SCO as “one of the key pillars of a fair, multipolar world order”, and said ties between Moscow and Beijing are “experiencing the best period in their history”.

It marked their second meeting in as many months following Mr Putin’s visit to China, which underlined Beijing’s political support for Moscow amid Western sanctions and China’s role as a top market for Russian oil and gas.

Russia also has relied on Beijing as a main source of high-tech imports to keep its military machine running.

The SCO helps China project its influence, especially across Central Asia and the Global South. Xi called for “bridges of communication” between countries last week and wants to further promote China as an alternative to the US and its allies.

For host Kazakhstan and the other Central Asian nations, the meeting is a way to further their cooperation with bigger, more powerful neighbours. Kazakhstan, for instance, frequently engages with both neighbouring Russia and China, while also pursuing links with the West.

Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have joined leaders of other countries such as Belarus (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP) (AP)

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