Putin, Hu Meet On Rising Partnership

Putin, Hu Meet On Rising Partnership

Published: June 6, 2012 (Issue # 1711)

BEIJING, China — The leaders of Russia and China met Tuesday to foster an evolving partnership that has counterbalanced U.S. influence and shielded Syria from international moves to halt its crackdown on a 15-month uprising.

President Vladimir Putin arrived in Beijing on his first visit to his country’s vast neighbor since resuming the Russian presidency earlier this month. He later sat down for talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao that are expected to touch on the crisis in Syria as well as on Iran, bilateral trade and energy cooperation, and will join a regional summit later in the week.

Russia and China have repeatedly defied calls by the international community to confront Syria’s regime over violence, saying they will not back steps that could lead to foreign intervention. Russia has long been a close ally of President Bashar Assad’s regime, while Beijing opposes setting precedents that could potentially be applied to its troubled western regions of Tibet and Xinjiang.

China and Russia vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions, which raised the threat of possible sanctions against Syria and have ruled out any Libya-style military action to protect civilians in Syria. The two also voted against a resolution Friday that condemned last month’s massacre of more than 100 civilians in the cluster of villages known as Houla and called for an independent investigation.

The U.S. has pushed Russia to join international efforts for a political transition in Syria that would see Assad driven from power.

Putin, meanwhile, has sought to use Russia’s burgeoning ties with Beijing as a counterweight to U.S. global predominance, and the sides have found common cause in rejecting Western calls for more open politics and respect for civil liberties.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters Tuesday that China and Russia both “oppose external intervention in the Syrian situation and oppose regime change by force.”

Both countries also oppose further sanctions against Iran over its suspected drive to develop nuclear weapons.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Putin and Hu will be among leaders attending the annual summit of the six-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a grouping of Russia, China and four Central Asian states seeking to boost regional integration and curb Western influence. The countries are also preparing for the U.S. departure from Afghanistan.

Liu said the summit leaders will issue a declaration on guidelines for cracking down on terrorism and building a region of “lasting peace and common prosperity.” He did not give details.

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