Syria on agenda as Putin goes to China
Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in China for a three-day visit aimed at bolstering crucial ties between the powerful Eurasian neighbours who have aligned to block tougher international action against Syria.
Both energy and foreign policy co-operation were high on the agenda for the visit beginning on Tuesday, with Putin also participating in a regional security summit on Wednesday and Thursday where he will separately meet the presidents of Iran and Afghanistan.
Putin's China trip, his first since returning to the Russian presidency earlier this month, comes after failed attempts by EU leaders to sway him on Syria - a Soviet-era ally Moscow still supplies with arms.
Beijing and Moscow have used their veto powers on the United Nations Security Council to obstruct condemnation of Damascus' deadly crackdown, saying they will not back measures that could lead to foreign intervention.
That has prompted growing anger from Arab and Western nations, with Herman Van Rompuy, the European Union's top official, telling Putin in Russia on Monday that world powers needed to "find common messages on which we agree".
Putin's visit comes as Li Baodong, China's UN ambassador, said his government was not trying to protect Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and would respect the will of the Syrian people on the country's future.
Li told reporters on Monday that China was urging all parties to immediately implement international envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan, halt the killings, and launch an inclusive political process to restore peace in Syria.
Known for confronting the West repeatedly during his 2000-2008 presidency, Putin pointedly skirted the issue of Syria during Monday's briefing with EU leaders in St Petersburg, noting only that "our positions do not coincide on every issue".
Putin has been keen to play up the importance of Russia's ties with its giant Asian neighbour, despite a long history of distrust and antagonism fuelled by territorial disputes and ideological differences between the Soviet Union and Mao Zedong's China.
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