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Chinese leader Xi meets Russia’s Lavrov as two partners tout strong ties

By Simone McCarthy, CNN

Hong Kong (CNN) — Chinese leader Xi Jinping met with top Russian diplomat Sergey Lavrov in Beijing Tuesday, state media reported, in yet another sign of the importance China gives to its increasingly robust ties with Moscow.

Lavrov is making a two-day visit to the Chinese capital, which comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin last month suggested he was considering China for his first overseas trip after extending his one-man rule with a stage-managed election victory last month.

The Kremlin on Tuesday confirmed that such a visit was “in the works,” saying Lavrov’s trip could be viewed as “preparations for upcoming interaction at the highest level,” state-run news agency Tass reported. But a spokesperson declined to provide exact dates.

During his meeting with Lavrov, Xi pledged to strengthen communication with Russia and said Beijing supports Moscow in “maintaining social security and stability,” according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. Xi also noted the two countries’ shared drive to reform “global governance” – an allusion to their joint efforts to reshape what they see as Western-dominated world.

Lavrov said “consolidating and enhancing” relations with China was the “priority of Russia’s foreign policy,” according to Chinese state media.

It was Xi and Lavrov’s first direct meeting in six years and notable as heads of state do not necessarily meet with visiting ministers. Their last meeting in 2018 came weeks before a state visit from Putin to China — his first such trip after winning another highly orchestrated Russian presidential election that year.

Since then, the two countries have ramped up their economic, trade and diplomatic relations – including in the wake of Putin’s war in Ukraine.

Beijing claims neutrality in the conflict but has emerged as a key economic lifeline for the isolated Russian economy and a staunch diplomatic partner for Moscow as both push back against what they see as containment from the West.

When a Russian lawmaker last month expressed his hope that Putin’s symbolic first overseas trip of his new term would be to China, Putin said he would take that “into account.”

Putin last visited Beijing in October for the Belt and Road Forum. Xi made a state visit to Moscow last March after entering his third term as Chinese president.

Lavrov also met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi earlier Tuesday.

Wang touted the countries’ ties as being elevated to “the highest level in history,” and alluded to their shared views on the United States by saying they would “oppose a Cold War mentality,” according to comments made during a joint news conference following their meeting, cited by Chinese state media.

The two sides discussed Ukraine and agreed that international meetings on the war ignoring Moscow’s interests “are futile,” Lavrov told the conference, according to Tass.

Wang told his counterpart that China supports holding an international peace conference “recognized by both Russia and Ukraine,” with “equal participation by all parties and where all peace plans are discussed fairly,” according to a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson.

The remarks come as questions mount about how to end the war in Ukraine.

Previous rounds of international peace conferences have been backed by Kyiv and not included Moscow, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky seeks broad support for his peace formula, which calls for the complete withdrawal of Russian troops.

China has maintained dialogue with Switzerland about an upcoming international peace conference, according to state media, but previously said such talks should be recognized by both Ukraine and Russia.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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CNN’s Wayne Chang and Steven Jiang contributed reporting.

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