Xi visits ‘best friend’ Putin | Daily News

Xi visits ‘best friend’ Putin

Chinese President Xi Jinping meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow yesterday.
Chinese President Xi Jinping meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow yesterday.

RUSSIA: Chinese President Xi Jinping began a three-day visit to “best friend” Vladimir Putin on Wednesday with a touch of panda diplomacy and a raft of new Russian-Chinese business contracts.

The leaders praised their countries’ ties during talks at the Kremlin, as Russia and China seek to shore up cooperation amid shared tensions with the US.

“President Putin is for me a best friend,” Xi told journalists during a joint statement following the meeting.

“We decided that we would raise our bilateral relations to a new, higher level -- increasing our mutual support and assistance, and promote our relations in a new era,” he said, in remarks translated into Russian.

Russian President Putin thanked his Chinese counterpart for an earlier loan of two pandas that are being housed at the Moscow Zoo.

“This is a sign of a special respect, of a special trust in Russia,” he said. “When we speak about pandas, a smile always appears on our face.” The two men signed a joint statement on the development of comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation. Major Russian and Chinese companies meanwhile signed cooperation agreements.

China’s Alibaba, Russian mobile phone operator Megafon, internet group Mail.ru and the Russian sovereign investment fund RDIF closed a deal on a joint e-commerce venture. Mail.ru head Boris Dobrodeyev said in a statement that the new company AliExpress Russia would become the “undisputed leader in Russian e-commerce”. Russian telecoms company MTS and Chinese Huawei also signed a memorandum of understanding, while Russia’s Novatek and Gazprombank signed an agreement with Sinopec to market gas in China.

The trip comes five years after Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula led to a serious rift with its Western partners and subsequent turn toward its neighbour to the east.

“In recent years, thanks to your direct participation, the relationship between Russia and China has reached an unprecedentedly high level,” Putin told Xi on Wednesday.

Xi, who was received with full honours when he arrived at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport in the afternoon, was set to attend a performance at the Bolshoi Theatre in the evening. He will later travel to the former imperial capital of Saint Petersburg for an economic forum hosted by Putin on Thursday and Friday. China and Russia “have strong political mutual trust, and support each other firmly on issues concerning each other’s core interests and major concerns,” Xi said during an interview with Russian media ahead of the visit. The partnership is yielding increasing trade, which grew by 25 percent in 2018 to hit a record $108 billion (96 billion euros), according to the Kremlin.

Putin’s foreign policy aide, Yuri Ushakov, earlier calledChina “Russia’s most important economic partner”.

Russia may have had unrealistic expectations from its pivot to the east following Western sanctions over Ukraine, said Alexander Gabuev, who heads the Asia programme at the Carnegie Moscow Centre.

Nevertheless, China’s share in Russian foreign trade has nearly doubled since then, he added. Politically, the two countries seem consistently aligned and often vote in unison as permanent members of the UN Security Council. - AFP


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