Summit with Putin, Xi to showcase ‘alternative’ to West: Kremlin

MOSCOW (AFP): A regional summit this week where Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet China’s Xi Jinping and other Asian leaders will showcase an “alternative” to the Western world, the Kremlin said Tuesday.

Putin and Xi will be joined by the leaders of India, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran and several other countries for the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in the Uzbek city of Samarkand on Thursday and Friday.

The SCO — made up of China, Russia, India, Pakistan and four ex-Soviet Central Asian countries — was set up in 2001 as a political, economic and security organisation to rival Western institutions.

The meeting will be part of Xi’s first trip abroad since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic and comes with relations between Russia and the West shattered by the conflict in Ukraine.

“The SCO offers a real alternative to Western-centric organisations,” Kremlin foreign policy advisor Yuri Ushakov told reporters in Moscow.

“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”.

The SCO, he said, “is the largest organisation in the world, it includes half the population of our planet”.

Putin will hold talks with Xi, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday, Ushakov said, before attending the main session of the summit on Friday.

On Friday he will also meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev.

“The meeting with Xi is of particular importance, major international and regional topics will be discussed,” including the conflict in Ukraine and growing Russia-China economic ties, Ushakov said.