Xi and Putin to meet in Uzbekistan for security talks
Uzbekistan, Sep 15: Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Samarkand to attend a regional security summit on Thursday with leaders from India and Central Asian countries.
Putin and Xi are set to bilaterally discuss Ukraine, according to the Russian president's foreign affairs adviser.
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.
What is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization?
Set up in 2001, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (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.
The growing cooperation between China and Russia raises concerns to many in the US and Europe, especially because it comes at a time of heightened tension due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and China's involvement in the Taiwan Strait.
What's on the agenda at the summit?
The main sessions of the summit are scheduled for Friday, but most of its focus will be on bilateral talks.
Aside from Xi, Putin is scheduled to meet with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. On Friday, he will meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Russian media agency TASS reported on Thursday that Iran signed a memorandum to join the group. Tehran had acted as an observer of the SCO band until now.
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.