Russia and China strengthen diplomatic ties

By Karon Snowdon

Russia and China have reaffirmed their opposition to foreign intervention in Syria and cemented their economic relationship during a visit to Beijing by President Vladimir Putin.

It is his eighth visit to Beijing.

The leaders of both countries say they remain committed to UN envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan for Syria.

President Putin’s three day state visit has extended foreign policy and military cooperation and seen major business deals signed.

Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov says Russia has an exemplary partnership with China on foreign policy.

Managing Director of SilkRoad Associates, Ben Simfendorfer has told Radio Australia’s Asia Pacificprogram this hasn’t always been the case and its still not that smooth.

“China has a long standing relationship with Russia, for better or for worse, it is not always a comfortable relationship,” he said.

“The two have been at odds for periods, so I don’t expect too many surprises.

“At the same time these sort of negotiations never move that fast because of any outstanding or historical tension.”

Past border conflicts, the 1960’s crisis and inconsistencies from Moscow have given way to increasing cooperation, including on solving the Iranian and North Korean nuclear issues.

At the present time the most noticeable common position relates to the conflict in Syria and as ongoing violence unravels Kofi Annan’s peace plan, China and Russia continue to urge international support for it.

They remain united in opposing foreign intervention or forced regime change by the removal of President Bashar al-Assad from power.

The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she hopes for a change of heart.

“I think it is clear to anyone, that peace and human dignity will not be possible in Syria without political change,” she said.

“And we are going to continue to pursue that and we invite the Russians and Chinese to be part of this solution of what is happening in Syria.”

Many commentators see the Russia-China partnership as both sides balancing their relations with the US, but its mostly economic.

The Russian delegation includes six cabinet ministers and the heads of many of Russia’s major corporations.

Business deals are high on the agenda, with an expectation that trade will more than double from about $US 90 billion dollars now to 200 billion by 2020.

About a dozen contracts have been signed this week, but as yet the big prize the sale of 70 billion cubic metres of gas to China remains unsigned and as commodity prices fall, Beijing is reportedly holding out for a lower price.



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