Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping criticise Israel, call for ceasefire as fear of ground attack looms 

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Beijing on Tuesday to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in a trip that is being watched closely worldwide as it highlights the two most powerful leaders’ shared vision for a new international order not dominated by the United States and its democratic allies. 

The meeting between the Russian and Chinese presidents comes at a time when geopolitical fault lines harden globally. Firstly, due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, just after Xi and Putin met in Beijing in February 2022, when they announced a no-limits partnership and secondly as Israel prepares for a ground attack on Hamas in the Gaza Strip which is likely to escalate into a regional conflict and shatter the stability in the Middle East.  

As U.S. has supported Israel’s action of retaliating against Hamas after the Palestinian militant group launched a deadly attack on the country, Beijing and Moscow however criticised Israel and called for a ceasefire in a show of their efforts to step up their alternative leadership.  

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Xi and Putin’s meeting also comes at a time when U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced from Tel Aviv on Tuesday that U.S. President Joe Biden will visit Israel on Wednesday. The U.S. diplomat had several rounds of talks in Israel and a seven-and-a-half hour meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the trip came through.  

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Biden’s visit to Israel serves as a high-profile show of support for a top U.S ally and comes as a deterrent to other countries against taking advantage of the Israel Hamas war. The U.S. president was deliberating whether to make the visit during wartime.  

Biden’s visit will expand on Blinken’s seven nation, multi-day visit through the Middle East, which comes as the U.S. attempts to strike a delicate balance of offering unwavering help for Israel’s military operations while soothing the ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ in Gaza and preventing the conflict from spreading to additional fronts. 

Beijing is hosting the Belt and Road Forum where heads of state, representatives and delegations from more than 140 countries are expected to attend. The two-day diplomatic event beginning Tuesday, marks 10 years since the start of Xi’s global infrastructure funding drive and presents the Chinese leader with an opportunity to project Beijing’s growing global ambitions. 

Xi and Putin are likely to discuss the Israel-Hamas war during the meeting. Putin’s China visit is an exceptionally rare foreign trip for the diplomatically isolated leader. 

The timing of the Beijing event, coming as Israel signals it might launch a ground attack of the Hamas-ruled Gaza strip, gives Putin chance to move the worldwide spotlight away from his conflict in Ukraine, experts say. 

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