The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and his peer from China, Xi Jinping, will not participate on October 30 and 31 of the summit Heads of State and Government of the G20 to be held in Rome, sources from the organization reported. Both absences, under the excuse of the effects of a coronavirus pandemic that has not yet ended, could leave the international forum without a solid agreement in a context of growing tension between western powers with Moscow and Beijing. The summit of the Italian capital is considered particularly important because comes just before the UN COP26 climate change conference to be held in Glasgow, where the position of the G20 nations will be critical.
Less than two weeks before the summit in Rome, sources close to the organization reported that Xi will not participate in the meeting that will be held at the La Nuvola convention center (La Nube), from the EUR neighborhood of the Italian capital. Putin, while, “confirmed his willingness to participate in the summit by videoconference”, as reported by the Kremlin to the Sputnik news agency after a telephone conversation that the Russian president had with the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi.
The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, was quoted by the RIA Novosti agency stating that Putin’s decision was prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, given that Russia is recording record deaths and thousands of new cases in recent days.
Putin briefly self-isolated last month after dozens of people around him were diagnosed with covid-19. Last week, after repeatedly coughing at a government meeting, he said he had caught a cold.
Chinese diplomacy argued that the president Xi Jinping will not attend the G-20 summit alluding to security measures in the framework of the coronavirus pandemic. The news, confirmed on Tuesday, would have been released at a meeting of G-10 envoys in Florence in September, four people familiar with the matter told the Bloomberg news agency.
In that sense, Chinese diplomatic officials explained that due to the mandatory quarantine that must be met upon entry to the Asian country, Xi did not plan to go to Rome to avoid the measure upon his return to the country. Xi has not traveled outside the country since January 2020, coinciding with the outbreak of the pandemic., although he maintained contact with his international peers through phone calls and virtual meetings.
The previous seedlings
Xi and Putin also did not participate last week in an extraordinary virtual G20 summit dedicated to the crisis in Afghanistan. called by Draghi, in which they were relieved by ministers and regional representatives. “As far as I know,” his absence “was not due to particular foreign policy reasons,” said the Italian prime minister at the time, underlining that his face-to-face participation in the G20 in Rome was “fundamental.”
The absence of Russia and China had also been notorious last June during the G20 foreign minister’s summit in the Italian city of Matera, the first face-to-face meeting since the beginning of the pandemic of the forum that brings together the 19 richest countries in the world, joined by the European Union (EU).
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi decided to participate by videoconference, while his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov sent his deputy minister, something that caused unease among his European counterparts. “When you get together you should also talk to the others. We need dialogue with Russia and China”, said the German Foreign Minister at the time, Heiko Maas.
Both Xi and Putin seem determined to dodge multilateral appointments. Last week, the Russian president said he may not attend the world climate conference COP26, which will meet in the Scottish city of Glasgow from October 31 to November 12, “due to the situation of the pandemic.” Nor is Xi expected to do so, according to British officials cited by the BBC, both because of China’s protocols around the coronavirus and because of genuine concerns about COVID-19 abroad.
An ever stronger bond
In any case, the G20 meeting will take place in the midst of a delicate moment at the global level, with an agenda marked by crises of different scale, such as climate change, the supply of vaccines against covid-19 and a world economy still hit by the pandemic. The positions of China and Russia are decisive for many of these issues, and the absence of the leaders of those nations would make it difficult to sign a major agreement, Italian diplomats indicated Tuesday.
While both countries’ relationship with Western powers has deteriorated in recent years, the link between Beijing and Moscow has only strengthened.. Days ago, Putin praised China as a highly trusted partner for Russia during their annual question and answer session at the traditional Energy Week Forum.
“China is our largest commercial and economic partner. The volume of trade between Russia and China is increasing, and will exceed 100 billion dollars Americans in the first nine months of this year, “Putin said, adding:” Russia and China can always come to the negotiating table and find mutual solutions. “
Russia’s move towards the world’s second largest economy was an alternative to sanctions for its annexation in 2014 of the Crimean peninsula and its role in the crisis in Ukraine, while Beijing also strengthened its ties as tensions rose in almost all respects with the United States.
On the diplomatic front, both countries have frequently relied on the UN Security Council to counter the weight of Washington and its allies on issues such as Syria, Iran or Afghanistan, in addition to rejecting criticism of human rights violations in their territories. .
The coronavirus health crisis further raised tensions with the West, by launching both Beijing and Moscow a policy of offering vaccines to boost their positioning globally. Nevertheless, It was with the arrival of Democrat Joe Biden to the White House and his desire to reaffirm American leadership in the world that the strategic alliance between Russia and China was consolidated.