China will host its third Belt and Road Forum next week, its foreign ministry said on Wednesday, a President Xi Jinping signature event that President Vladimir Putin is due to attend on a rare trip abroad.
The conference in Beijing on Oct. 17-18 marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) championed by Xi, with representatives from many developing countries, notably from Latin America and Africa, expected to attend.
Putin attended the two previous forums, in 2017 and 2019, and the Kremlin said in September he had accepted an invitation to the forum and for talks with Xi.
The Russian leader is not known to have gone abroad since the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for him in March over the deportation of children from Ukraine.
Putin is expected to visit Kyrgyzstan on Thursday, before the Beijing meeting. Neither Kyrgyzstan nor China are members of the ICC, which was established to prosecute war crimes.
The BRI is a plan for global infrastructure and energy networks that China launched a decade ago to connect Asia with Africa and Europe through land and maritime routes.
But critics see the plan – billed as recreating the ancient Silk Road to boost global trade – as a tool for China to spread its geopolitical and economic influence.
Putin, in a message to Xi this month, said their talks would deepen Russian-Chinese ties “for the benefit of our friendly peoples, in interests of ensuring security and stability on the Eurasian continent and throughout the world”.
China had signed Belt and Road cooperation documents with more than 150 countries and more than 30 international organizations, the foreign ministry said.
Italy, the only Group of Seven countries to sign up, has criticized the 2019 decision by a previous government to join the BRI scheme, with its foreign minister recently saying trade between Italy and China had not improved.
(Inputs from REUTERS)