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September 15, 2022, 06.55 PM

SAMARKAND, UZBEKISTAN, – Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping gathered with other Asian leaders in the ancient Silk Road city of Samarkand on Thursday, Sept. 15, for a summit touted as a challenge to Western global influence.

Putin and Xi were being joined by the leaders of India, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and several other countries for the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in the Uzbek city on Thursday and Friday (Sept. 15-16).

The main summit day will be Friday, but a meeting of the Chinese and Russian leaders later Thursday is set to be closely watched, with talks about the conflict in Ukraine expected.

Earlier on Thursday, the two first held separate meetings with leaders of ex-Soviet Central Asian nations. Putin sat down with the presidents of Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan while Xi met Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

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Putin then saw Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, announcing that ties were “developing positively” between Moscow and Tehran and giving his full backing to Iran’s application to become a member of the SCO.

Raisi told Putin that US-backed sanctions on both countries would only make their relationship “stronger”.

“The Americans think whichever country they impose sanctions on, it will be stopped, their perception is a wrong one,” Raisi said.

For Putin, the summit is a chance to show that Russia is not isolated internationally at a time when Moscow’s forces are facing major battlefield setbacks in Ukraine.

Rare trip abroad for Xi

For Xi -- on his first trip abroad since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic -- it is an opportunity to shore up his credentials as a global statesman ahead of a pivotal congress of the ruling Communist Party in October.

The summit is also a chance for both leaders to thumb their noses at the West, especially the United States, which has led the charge in imposing sanctions on Russia over Ukraine and angered Beijing with recent shows of support for Taiwan.

Entry to Samarkand, a city of grand tiled mosques that was one of the hubs of Silk Road trade routes between China and Europe, has been restricted for days, with its airport shut to commercial flights.

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Security was tight across the city, with a huge police presence on the streets and armored vehicles parked downtown.

Source AFP

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