“There’s nothing better than living in friendship,” Chinese leader Xi Jinping quoted medieval poet Alisher Navoi to his Uzbek counterpart, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, upon meeting him at the Samarkand airport last week. Shortly after, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s jet landed.

Both leaders were scheduled to meet for the first time since February to attend this year’s Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Uzbekistan, together with five more member nations to convene and welcome Iran, which recently attained full membership in the Eurasian body. SCO is a regional security group formed by Beijing and Moscow in the early 2000s to counterbalance the influence wielded by the United States.