Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Beijing Tuesday where he’s meeting with his “dear friend” Chinese leader Xi Jinping for the third international Belt and Road forum.
It marks Putin’s first trip outside of former Soviet Union countries since the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest in March – something which impacted his travel to South Africa for the August BRICS summit. Instead he addressed the summit remotely, while Xi, Modi and others were in Johannesburg.
Xi and Putin are expected to hold lengthy formal talks on Wednesday, while Tuesday night Putin is attending a welcome dinner hosted by the Chinese leader, according to China Central Television.
To some degree, the international spotlight and pressure surrounding the Ukraine war has been taken off Putin as the world’s attention has shifted to rapidly moving events in Gaza and Israel.
Xi and Putin had last met in the Chinese capital in early 2022, just three weeks before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was launched on Feb. 24.
Both are now expected to find common ground on criticizing Israel’s actions, and will likely renew calls for a ceasefire in Gaza. Over the weekend China’s foreign ministry blasted Israel’s actions as collective punishment against Palestinians.
“Israel’s actions have gone beyond self-defense and it should heed the call of the international community and the Secretary-General of the United Nations to stop its collective punishment of the people in Gaza,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Saudi Arabia counterpart Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud in a Sunday call.
In a separate call he told Turkey’s FM: “The exercise of the right of self-defense should abide by international humanitarian law and should not be at the expense of innocent civilian casualties.”
As for Putin, he’s expressed “his sincere condolences to the families and friends of the deceased Israelis,” while also warning against the potential for further “catastrophe” for civilians in the Gaza Strip. “What matters now is to stop the bloodshed,” he has said. Putin’s plane left Moscow just as Russia’s proposed resolution on Gaza got voted down at the UN Security Council:
The U.N. Security Council rejected a Russian resolution Monday night that condemned violence and terrorism against civilians but made no mention of Hamas, whose surprise attack that killed 1,300 Israelis was the worst Jewish massacre since the World War II Nazi Holocaust.
Only four countries joined Russia in voting for the resolution — China, United Arab Emirates, Mozambique and Gabon. Four countries voted against it — the United States, Britain, France and Japan. The other six countries abstained. Adoption needs a minimum of nine “yes” votes in the 15-member council.
Putin, on his first trip outside the former Soviet Union since the ICC war crimes indictment against him, meets Xi at the Belt and Road forum in Beijing. He even gets the special privilege of standing next to Xi in the group photo. pic.twitter.com/4JvriyWeOh
— max seddon (@maxseddon) October 17, 2023
He informed Israeli leaders that Russia seeks to “promote the normalization of the situation, prevent a further escalation of violence and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip.” He’s been holding calls with various regional actors, including the Iranians and Egyptians, offering mediation efforts.
The timing of the Xi-Putin meeting is further interesting as it will take place just as Biden visits Israel on Wednesday. Currently, there are believed to be Americans and other foreign nationals among the hostages held by Hamas.
While in Beijing, “The Kremlin hopes to secure major commodity contracts, agreements to share cutting-edge technologies and an official declaration of Beijing’s backing of Moscow,” according to analysis provided to The Moscow Times. The large delegation traveling with Putin affirms this. The delegation includes the deputy prime ministers for energy and technology, as well as the finance minister. Additionally the head of the Central Bank, and the heads of the Gazprom and Rosneft energy giants, as well as Sberbank – are all in Putin’s entourage.