Putin, Xi meet for high-stakes talks in challenge to West
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Putin, Xi meet for high-stakes talks in challenge to West

BEIJING/TEHRAN: China’s President Xi Jinping landed in Uzbekistan on Wednesday, state media said, ahead of a meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

“Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived here (in Samarkand) on Wednesday evening to pay a state visit to Uzbekistan and attend the 22nd meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO),” the official Xinhua news agency said.

The SCO — established in 2001 as a political, economic and security organisation to rival Western institutions — will bring together Xi and Putin, as well as leaders from India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and other ex-Soviet Central Asian countries.

Xi flew to Samarkand from Nur-Sultan in Kazakhstan, where he met with President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in his first trip overseas since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

Iran says will pursue membership of Russia, China-led bloc

There, the Chinese president vowed full support for the Central Asian country, which has been spooked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Kazakhstan is part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a trillion-dollar push to improve trade links across the globe by building landmark infrastructure.

Iran seeks SCO membership

Iran intends to pursue membership of a Chinese and Russian-led bloc that is meeting in Uzbekistan this week, President Ebrahim Raisi said on Wednesday as he prepared to head to the summit.The summit set for Thursday and Friday in the Uzbek city of Samarkand is the first entirely face-to-face leaders’ meeting since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

“One of the important acts of this summit will be the finalisation of SCO (membership) documents and the legal process they will need to take in order to be signed by the foreign ministers of the member countries,” Raisi said.

Iran, one of four SCO observer states, had applied for full membership in 2008 but its bid was slowed by UN and US sanctions imposed over its nuclear programme.

Several SCO members did not want a country under international sanctions in their ranks. At a conference in Dushanbe in September last year, members of the bloc endorsed Iran’s future membership.

Tehran wants to “make the most of the economic power and the capacities of the region and of Asian countries for the benefit of the Iranian nation”, Raisi said.

The Kremlin said that this week’s summit in Samarkand will showcase an “alternative” to the West. The move comes as Iran and major powers have been struggling to revive a 2015 nuclear deal.

The original agreement promised Iran relief from crippling sanctions in return for tight limits to its nuclear activities verified by UN monitors.

Since last year, Iran has been engaged in EU-brokered talks to revive the deal with the renewed involvement of the United States, which pulled out in 2018.

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