China's Xi skips dinner with Putin, allies as COVID precaution

SAMARKAND, Uzbekistan, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Chinese leader Xi Jinping stayed away from a dinner attended by 11 heads of states at a regional security summit in line with his delegation's COVID-19 policy, a source in the Uzbek government told Reuters on Friday.

Xi, who is making his first foreign trip since the beginning of the pandemic, is attending a meeting this week of the China- and Russia-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in the Uzbek city of Samarkand.

However, he was absent from group photographs published late on Thursday when the leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan, went for dinner.

An Uzbek government source confirmed Xi's absence and said the Chinese delegation cited its COVID-19 policy as the reason.

In Beijing, the Chinese foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Xi, 69, is set to secure a historic third leadership term at a Communist Party congress that will begin next month.

Reporting by Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov; Additional reporting by Yew Lun Tian in Beijing; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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