China says Xi-Sharif met 'several times' at SCO, but mum over bilateral meeting

China says Xi-Sharif met 'several times' at SCO, but mum over bilateral meeting

China says Xi-Sharif met 'several times' at SCO, but mum over bilateral meeting
China today rejected as "nonsense" reports that President Xi Jinping snubbed Pakistan Premier Nawaz Sharif by not meeting him at the SCO summit following the killing of two Chinese nationals in Balochistan and said the two leaders met "several times" during the meeting.

"I can tell you that during the seventeenth SCO heads of state meeting, President Xi met with Pakistan Prime Minister Sharif several times," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said but did not say whether the two leaders had a bilateral meeting. "Some reports are just nonsense and unwanted. China and Pakistan enjoy an all-weather strategic partnership," he said.

Pakistan's state-run APP news agency reported on June 10 that Sharif returned from the Kazakh capital 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 usually customary meeting between Sharif and Xi.

China's official media also highlighted Xi's meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kazakhstan counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev 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.

Xi apparently did not meet Sharif as there was disappointment and grief among Chinese public over the slaying of the two Chinese citizens who were kidnapped last month from Quetta in the restive Pakistani province of Balochistan.

The two, both teachers, were brutally murdered reportedly by Islamic State (IS) militants. The news of their murders was made public ahead of the SCO summit held on June 8-9 in which India and Pakistan were admitted as members.

"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.