Tuesday, March 5, 2024

China’s Xi calls for stronger ‘strategic coordination’ with Russia in Lunar New Year call with Putin | CNN

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CNN
 — 

Chinese leader Xi Jinping heralded a new year of growing coordination with Russia during a call with counterpart Vladimir Putin on Thursday that comes as the two countries continue to cement their partnership amid frictions with the West.

Xi told Putin the two sides should “strengthen strategic coordination” and “safeguard the national sovereignty, security and development interests of their respective countries,” according to a readout from China’s Foreign Ministry.

They should also “resolutely oppose external interference in their internal affairs,” Xi said, in an apparent reference to the two leaders’ shared suspicions about the activities of Western governments.

The call, which comes ahead of China’s Lunar New Year on Saturday, is the latest robust exchange between the two leaders, who are seen to have a warm personal relationship and share an aim of pushing back against what they see as a world unfairly dominated by the United States.

Their strengthening relationship in recent years has been closely watched by Western governments, in particular amid concerns that China could support Putin’s grinding war in Ukraine.

China claims impartiality in that conflict but has refused to condemn the illegal invasion and acted as an increasingly critical lifeline for the sanctions-hit Russian economy.

“We have withstood many trials and tribulations together (in the past). Looking to the future, China-Russia relations face new development opportunities,” Xi told Putin during their call.

The leaders also had a “detailed exchange” on the situation in several regions, including the Middle East, and discussed “the current situation” in Ukraine, according to a readout from the Kremlin.

In the Middle East, “both Russia and China support a political and diplomatic settlement of the Palestinian problem within the generally recognized framework of international law,” the Kremlin statement said.

The Chinese readout did not name Ukraine or the Middle East, where instability is growing on the back of the on-going conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. It said the two sides discussed “international and regional hot-spot issues.”

Beijing has criticized Israel’s response to Hamas’ October 7 terror attack, and has backed a two-state solution to establish an independent Palestinian state as a way to resolve the conflict.

Both Beijing and Moscow are seen to have increased their coordination on international issues in forums like the United Nations in recent years, while also building separate international groupings where they hold sway such as BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Xi and Putin both called for further enhancing their international “multilateral” coordination during the call, the readouts said, mentioning the BRICS and SCO, both of which have expanded their membership over the past year. Russia assumed the rotating annual chair of BRICS earlier this year.

“Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping specifically stressed that close Russia-China interaction is an important stabilizing factor in world affairs,” the Kremlin readout said.

The leaders also hailed record trade, which last year exceeded a target of $200 billion ahead of schedule. Those ties have been buoyed by discount Russian oil purchases from China and sanctions-hit Russia’s increasing reliance on Chinese consumer goods amid its economic isolation.

Putin also praised the Russia-China trade relationship during an interview with American right-wing pundit Tucker Carlson published Thursday.

“Our trade is well-balanced, mutually complementary in high-tech, energy, scientific research and development,” Putin said in his remarks, where he referred to Xi as a “colleague and friend,” according to a translation provided by Carlson.

Putin has an arrest warrant against him issued by the International Criminal Court over an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia. And on Thursday, Human Rights Watch said the Russian president should face a war crimes inquiry for Moscow’s brutal assault on the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which killed thousands of people, destroyed countless buildings and was followed by a widespread campaign of Russification.

Thursday’s phone conversation between Xi and Putin took place as the two countries celebrate 75 years of diplomatic relations this year.

Last year, Xi made his symbolically significant first foreign trip of his third term as president to Moscow last March. Putin made one of just a handful of overseas trips since the start of the war in Ukraine to Beijing in October.

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