Russian President Vladimir has held his first meeting with new Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is in Moscow on an official visit.
The two leaders emphasized the importance of their countries’ ties in terms of bilateral trade and their influence on world affairs, as Putin noted in comments to reporters.
“Russian-Chinese relations are a crucial factor of international politics,” Putin said. “Our trade is growing, both countries are involved in large humanitarian projects, and all of that serves the interests of the Chinese and Russian people.”
On the eve of the Chinese leader’s three-day visit to Russia, Putin said relations between China and Russia had never been better, pointing to a more than doubling in bilateral trade over the last five years.
Trade between China and Russia amounted to a a record-high $88 billion in 2012, up 11 percent year on year, and China has been Russia’s biggest trade partner for three years running.
Ahead of the meeting, Xi was widely quoted as saying his choice of Russia for his first foreign visit as China’s president was “testimony to the great importance China places on its relations with Russia.”
After Xi’s arrival at the Kremlin, Putin said the Chinese president’s visit gives “new impetus” to Sino-Russian relations that are already enjoying one of their best periods ever.
Xi endorsed Putin’s “evaluation of Russian-Chinese relations.”
The Chinese leader furhter noted that “Russian-Chinese relations are at their best since the very existence of our relations. We have wide mutual interests. Further development of our relations is not only in the interest of our governments but is also in the interest of our people. The main goal of our current visit to your country is to make a mutual effort in further development of our relations, wide cooperation, and strategic partnership.”
Russia has profited from neighboring China’s insatiable hunger for energy resources and many of the agreements due to be signed concern oil and natural gas.
Talks on Russian oil supplies to China were expected to produce results but negotiations for Russian gas supplies to China were reportedly still deadlocked as Xi arrived in Russia.
Russia is hoping to export some its vast and virtually untapped Siberian gas reserves to China but price continues to be an issues with analysts and sources close to the talks reporting Russia is insisting on $300 per 1,000 cubic meters while China refuses to consider any amount above $250.
A spokesman for Putin told reporters no gas deal with China would be signed during Xi’s visit.
Russian gas giant Gazprom, and China, the world’s top energy consumer, have been in talks over gas supplies for years, but a deal has been held up over pricing.
The state-controlled energy exporter is hoping to sign a contract this year to supply China with at least 38 billion cubic meters of gas a year from Eastern Siberia via a pipeline that is yet to be built.
China already receives about 8 percent of its crude oil imports from Russia via a pipeline to the northeastern city of Daqing.
The two leaders are also expected to discuss the conflict in Syria.
Moscow and Beijing have led efforts in the UN to prevent other countries from imposing sanctions on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and obtaining international support for military action against the Syrian government.
Putin has met Xi at least twice in the past. Standing beside Putin in the Kremlin, Xi, who officially became China’s leader just over one week ago, spoke of their meeting three years ago when Xi visited Moscow as part of a Chinese delegation and their meeting last year in Beijing.
The two presidents are due to meet again for a summit in Durban, South Africa, next week of the BRICS group of nations, which consists of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
Ahead of the visit, Russia’s ambassador to China, Sergei Razov, said Russia was confident Xi’s visit would be a success.
“During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit, state heads of both sides are expected to sign a manifesto spelling out the directions for the future development of Sino-Russian relations, key cooperation fields between the two countries, and positions and proposals on key international and regional issues,” Razov said.
According to Razov, companies from the two countries are currently negotiating cooperation plans on natural gas, oil, heavy helicopters and passenger planes. China has also expressed an interest in purchasing Russian Su-35 fighter jets.