Russia and China lead six-nation security talks in Beijing

Russia and China have reaffirmed their opposition to foreign intervention in Syria and cemented their economic relationship during President Vladimir Putin’s 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.

The leaders of Iran and Afghanistan are also in Beijing to meet with the two big powers.

Correspondent: Karon Snowdon

Speakers: Dr Leonid Petrov, lecturer in Korean and Asian Studies at Sydney University; Ben Simpfendorfer, Managing Director of SilkRoad Associates

SNOWDON: China’s state run media says the relationship is in good shape. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Russia has an exemplary partnership with China on foreign policy.

It hasn’t always been so.

Ben Simfendorfer, Managing Director of SilkRoad Associates says its not all clear sailing even now.

SIMFENDORFER: China has a longstanding relationship with Russia, for better or worse. It’s not always a comfortable relationship. The two have been at odds for periods. So, I don’t expect too many surprises, but at the same time, these negotiations never move that fast, because of any outstanding or historical tension.

SNOWDON: 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. As ongoing violence unravels Kofi Annan’s peace plan, China and Russia continue to urge international support for it. And they remain united in opposing foreign intervention or forced regime change by the removal of President Bashar al-Assad from power.

Speaking on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she hopes for a change of heart.

CLINTON: I think it is clear to anyone …. that peace and human dignity will not be possible in Syria without political change. 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.

SNOWDON: Many commentators see the Russia-China partnership as both sides balancing their relations with the US, but it’s mostly economic.

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. As commodity prices fall Beijing is reportedly holding out for a lower price.

Leonid Petrov, lecturer in Korean and Asian Studies at the University of Sydney says President Putin has a personal stake in finalising the massive gas deal.

PETROV: Russia is very desperate. These days, Russia has many competitors. In Central Asia, first of all, Kazaksthan, Turkmenistan, who sell gas to China at much cheaper prices. So the big hope is that the deal would support the presidency of Vladimir Putin, which has been punished by popular protest.

SNOWDON: What about military cooperation between China and Russia? Will we see that becoming more important, or a factor, particularly in the light of the changing US focus on the Asia Pacific region?

PETROV: Both Russia and China demonstratively declared that they tried to restore the balance in international order, where the world should be multi-polar and more balanced. So in terms of security, Vladimir Putin and President Hu agreed to improve and increase the military cooperation.

SNOWDON: At the same time in Beijing President Hu Jintao is hosting, along with Russia, the other four members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

The ten year old grouping concerns itself with economic relations and security, especially counter terrorism border issues. This year the summit has given observer status to the leaders of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai is meeting President Hu.

Leonid Petrov says the growing relationship has mutual benefits.

PETROV: Well these days, China is very pro-active in finding new spaces, the niches for its economic penetration and also strategic calibration with many countries, under-developed countries. So, Afghanistan, African countries provide a lucrative market, perhaps not now, maybe not today, but in the long term, and China is actually looking to restore to restore their economies after the wars, after the international conflicts and civil unrest.


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