The heads of Central Asian countries met in the Chinese city of Xian on Thursday where Chinese leader Xi Jinping is hosting a summit that is expected to result in a regional agreement with Beijing.
Following one-on-one talks with Xi on Thursday, leaders from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan will hold group a group discussion with the Chinese president on Friday.
This is the first time the leaders of the Central Asian countries are meeting in-person with the Chinese president. Xi will give an "important" speech and an "important" political document will also be signed during the two-day conference, according to China's foreign ministry.
During talks on Thursday with Kyrgyz President Sadyr Zhaparov, Xi said China was "willing to work with Kyrgyzstan to build a community of good neighborliness, friendship, shared prosperity, and a shared future."
Zhaparov expressed his willingness to expand trade, economic and investment links with China. "We provide each other with support on topical, vital issues for each of our states," he said.
Ahead of the summit, Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev met with Xi on Wednesday, with the two countries agreeing to build "an enduring friendship."
China's push for global leadership
The summit, which coincides with a meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) leaders in Japan, seeks to build regional influence and is of "milestone significance," Beijing has said.
The conference comes at a time when Russia is facing Western sanctions for its war in Ukraine and also amid China's intensified efforts to boost its influence as a global leader.
Central Asia remains a key region for China's trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, a monumental project for Xi.
Experts believe at the summit, China will try to secure deals for building vast transport links and pipelines, including a $6 billion China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway line and an expansion of the Central Asia-to-China gas pipeline, news agency AFP reported.
mf/rs (Reuters, AFP)