Russia's President Vladimir Putin met Wednesday with China's visiting prime minister, hailing the development of bilateral trade ties and the growing clout of a regional security group dominated by Moscow and Beijing. Wen Jiabao was in Moscow also for a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security grouping that includes Russia, China and the ex-Soviet Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
"It's an organization that is gathering momentum and acquiring an increasing international weight," Putin said of the group at the start of his meeting with Wen.
The group called on the United States in July to set a timetable for withdrawing its forces from bases in Central Asia, a move reflecting the growing unease Moscow and Beijing feel about the U.S. presence in the strategically placed, resource-rich region. Later that month, Uzbekistan handed the U.S. forces a six-month eviction notice.
Moscow and Beijing have staunchly backed Uzbekistan, which faced Western pressure after the government's suppression of a May uprising in the city of Andijan. Rights groups have said that more than 700 people were killed, while the government put the death toll at 187 and blamed Islamic extremists for the uprising.
Putin also said Wednesday that recent attacks in Uzbekistan and Russia's southern city of Nalchik again highlighted the need for closer cooperation in fighting terrorism, a statement that underscored Moscow's support for the Uzbek government.
"We will continue to pay special attention to ensuring our citizens' security," Putin said at the meeting with all of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization's prime ministers.
He said the group's member states' combined population of more than 3 billion people made the group a force to reckon with, the AP says.
"Getting together in this format, the heads of governments of these countries will come up with decisions which have an effect on the social and economic well-being of the majority of people on this planet," Putin said. "That in itself is a significant factor in world politics."
During Wednesday's meeting with Wen, Putin also praised the growing economic ties between Russia and China.
"We are very pleased with that, and we are sure that this is not the limit," Putin said.
Wen said that the trade volume this year was set to exceed earlier projections of US$28 billion (Ђ23 billion).
Since the 1991 Soviet collapse, Moscow and Beijing have developed what they call a strategic partnership, pledging commitment to a "multipolar world", a term that highlights their opposition to U.S. domination in global affairs.
In August, Russia and China held their first ever joint military maneuvers that underscored growing military ties between the former Cold War adversaries.
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