China says President Xi met PM Sharif several times at SCO summit, but maintains silence over bilateral meeting between two leaders
China on Monday rejected reports about President Xi Jinping snubbing Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by not meeting him on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Astana following the murder of two kidnapped Chinese nationals in Balochistan.
Terming these reports as “nonsense,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said that the two leaders met several times during the summit.
“I can tell you that during the seventeenth SCO heads of state meeting, President Xi met with Pakistan Prime Minister Sharif several times,” Lu Kang said.
However, he maintained silence on whether the two leaders had a bilateral meeting during the Astana summit.
“Some reports are just nonsense and unwanted. China and Pakistan enjoy an all-weather strategic partnership,” Lu Kang added.
State-run Pakistan news agency reported on June 10 that Sharif returned from Astana last week after attending the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on the sidelines of which he met Presidents of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Russia. Conspicuously absent was a meeting with Xi.
Chinese-state run media too highlighted Xi’s meetings with Kazakhstan counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry website has photographs of Xi’s bilateral meetings with other SCO leaders, including Modi but not with Sharif.
“The summit has realised the first ever membership enlargement of the SCO. As you know India and Pakistan have got full membership,” Lu said, adding that all the member countries “have agreed to build on the shanghai spirit to step up the cooperation between the old and new members”.
He also said the summit spoke highly of the Belt Road Forum (BRF) held at Beijing in May this year which was boycotted by India over sovereignty concerns relating to USD 50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Lu said the SCO has become an important platform and reliable support for the members to enhance mutual trust, deepen good neighbourly ties and friendship and expand political cooperation and uphold regional security and stability for the members.
“This summit has helped to strengthen the cohesion of SCO members, charted the course for future development and also made new proposals for SCO cooperation,” he said.
(With PTI inputs)