President Hu Jintao of China left Italy on Wednesday and flew home after the deadly ethnic clashes in the northwestern Xinjiang region, abandoning plans to attend the Group of Eight summit meeting as news reports spoke of continued unrest.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on its Web site that Mr. Hu was returning “given the current situation in Xinjiang,” where state media say at least 156 people have died in China’s worst ethnic clashes in decades between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese, The New York Times reports.
Victor Gao, the director of the government-run China National Association of International Studies, called Hu's early return "very unusual".
"Because of the unprecedented scale and the severity of the situation in Xinjiang," he told Al Jazeera, Hu had taken the "unprecedented measure of leaving the G8 meeting before it starts and coming back to China to exercise his leadership role in calming down the situation in Xinjiang," Aljazeera.net reports.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she planned to raise the violence in China's Xinjiang region in talks with Hu on the summit sidelines before he dramatically cut short his trip.
Russia has been arguing that issues such as the Xinjiang violence and Iran's political crisis are "internal matters" but US President Barack Obama and the leaders of France and Britain want the G8 summit to add to the pressure on Tehran, AFP reports.
Meanwhile The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan supports and defends the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the People's Republic of China.
"Afghanistan is committed to non-interference in the internal affairs of the People's Republic of China and supports the Chinese government's efforts in war against terrorists and separatists," said the statement of the Afghan Foreign Ministry.
"Afghanistan supports a strong, progressive and stable China and would continue its friendly relations based on mutual respect and cooperation with China which is a good neighbor," it said, Xinhua reports.