By Simone McCarthy, Katharina Krebs, Darya Tarasova and Yong Xiong, CNN
(CNN) — Russia and China’s top diplomats discussed strengthening their international cooperation during a meeting in Moscow on Monday ahead of an expected landmark visit from Russian President Vladimir Putin to Beijing in the coming weeks.
The two countries would continue “well-coordinated work” at the UN General Assembly (UNGA), which opened a new session this week, and other summits and high level meetings, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told visiting Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in opening remarks.
The meeting – part of a four-day trip for Wang to Russia – came as Chinese Vice President Han Zheng met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the UNGA sidelines in New York, where both sides “reiterated their commitment to maintaining open lines of communication,” according to Washington.
That engagement, and talks between Wang and US national security adviser Jake Sullivan in Malta this past weekend, could also smooth a path for leaders Joe Biden and Xi Jinping to meet in November when the United States hosts the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
The flurry of Chinese diplomacy comes as Washington and Beijing seek to stabilize their increasingly contentious relationship, but as Chinese leaders also aim to reshape a global governance system they say is unfairly dominated by the West – a task for which they see Moscow as a crucial partner.
In his Monday meeting with Lavrov, Wang said China and Russia should work together on the formation of a “multi-polar world,” adding that the two countries bear a “special responsibility” in terms of maintaining global strategic stability and peace.
“In the face of unilateral actions, hegemony and confrontation, China and Russia should … continue to strengthen strategic cooperation … and push forward the development of global governance in the direction of greater fairness,” Wang said, according to a readout from China’s Foreign Ministry, using terms Beijing typically employs to refer to actions from the US.
Wang also repeated Beijing’s insistence that the China-Russia relationship is not directed against or influenced by any third party.
“China and Russia pursue independent foreign policies,” the diplomat said.
The readout appeared to allude to the expected visit from Putin to China next month, with the Chinese ministry quoting Lavrov as saying Russia would “prepare for the next high-level exchanges between the two countries.”
During a summit in Moscow in March, Xi invited Putin to attend a forum expected to be held next month in Beijing. A Kremlin aide earlier this summer said the Russian leader planned to visit China at that time.
Putin has made few overseas trips since his invasion of Ukraine, and the International Criminal Court (ICC) earlier this year issued an arrest warrant for the diplomatically isolated leader for alleged war crimes.
The two leaders’ March summit, which took place under the shadow of Russia’s onslaught in Ukraine, left no question about Beijing’s commitment to developing its rapport with Moscow. It culminated in more than a dozen agreements bolstering cooperation in areas from trade and technology to state propaganda, according to a Kremlin list.
“We work in difficult conditions when the world is experiencing tectonic level shifts. And it is very important that in March of this year, our leaders identified clear directions for further deepening our strategic interaction,” Lavrov said during his meeting with Wang Monday.
War in Ukraine
Russia’s war in Ukraine has shifted the self-declared “no limits” partnership between the two – making sanctions-hampered Moscow increasingly reliant on Beijing as its most powerful economic and diplomatic partner.
China has also attempted to frame itself as a potential peace broker and neutral party in the conflict, even as it provides an economic lifeline for Russia and has not called for Moscow to cease its onslaught or withdraw troops.
In a statement Monday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Lavrov and Wang agreed that Moscow’s interests must be considered in resolving the conflict in Ukraine.
“The parties discussed in detail the current state of affairs in Ukraine, noting the futility of attempts to resolve the crisis without taking into account interests and, especially, without the participation of Russia,” the statement said.
China’s summary only presented its position as “consistently adhering” to the direction of peace talks and noted its pledge to “play a constructive role” in a “political settlement of the crisis.”
Wang’s arrival in Moscow Monday comes on the heels of a closely watched summit between Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last week, which the US warned could lead to Pyongyang supplying Moscow with munitions for its war in Ukraine.
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CNN’s Mengchen Zhang in Beijing and Mariya Knight in Atlanta contributed to this report.