BEJING - China and Russia pledged Tuesday to increase their cooperation in the United Nations, as the giant neighbours try to resist mounting pressure for international action to stop the bloodshed in Syria.China's President Hu Jintao said closer cooperation would allow the two countries, whose stance has angered Western powers, to "set the global political and economic order in a more fair and rational direction".
He made the comments after talks with Vladimir Putin, who is in Beijing for a regional summit on his first visit to Asia since winning a historic third term as Russia's president.
"We plan to increase cooperation in the framework of leading international organisations -- the United Nations, G20, BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation," Putin told reporters after the talks.
China and Russia -- permanent members of the UN Security Council -- have walked in lockstep on Syria to the anger of Arab and Western nations, and they both used their veto power earlier this year to block action against Damascus.
EU president Herman Van Rompuy on Monday told Putin in Russia that world powers needed to "find common messages on which we agree".
Known for confronting the West repeatedly during his 2000-2008 presidency, Putin pointedly skirted the issue of Syria during the briefing with EU leaders, noting only that "our positions do not coincide on every issue".
Putin has been keen to play up the importance of Russia's at-times uneasy ties with China, which have grown stronger in the past year amid growing international pressure for action on Syria -- an ally of both countries.
China's foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters earlier Tuesday that both Beijing and Moscow were united on Syria, opposing foreign intervention and forced regime change in the conflict-ridden country.
"The position of both sides is clear to all -- there should be an immediate end to violence and the political dialogue process should be launched as soon as possible," he said.
"China and Russia share the same position on these points and both sides oppose external intervention into the Syrian situation and oppose regime change by force."
Putin told Hu that China and Russia's interests "align perfectly in a great many areas, including in cooperating on the world stage, in economic and financial cooperation, high-tech, people and culture and other areas."
"Through the sustained efforts of both sides, the Russia-China overall strategic cooperative partnership relationship has attained new heights," he said during his meeting with the Chinese leader.
Putin, who will attend a regional security summit starting Wednesday in Beijing, is also due to meet with Hu's likely successor Vice President Xi Jinping, as well as the presidents of Iran and Afghanistan.
The two countries also signed several diplomatic and business agreements on Tuesday to support booming trade -- which reached $80 billion last year -- and finalised a deal to establish a joint $4 billion investment fund.
The Russian fund and the Chinese sovereign wealth fund will each contribute $1 billion to the joint venture, while the rest will come from Chinese investors.
Seventy percent of the fund's investments will be in Russian projects, and the rest in China in the fields of auto manufacturing, timber processing, agriculture, transport and logistics.
Putin said the two countries agreed to speed up negotiations for a joint project to produce a long-haul jet, but gave no details.
In another agreement, the China Development Bank will provide a $1.43 billion loan for construction of the Taishet aluminium smelter, a Rusal company project suspended in late 2008 due to the global economic crisis.
The Russian delegation includes six cabinet members, the heads of Russia's energy giants Gazprom, Rosneft and Transneft, and other major Russian business people.
While energy is high on the agenda, a long-awaited natural gas deal that could see Russia supply 70 billion cubic metres of gas a year directly to China was not signed on Tuesday.
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the issue would continue to be discussed at the expert level given the complexity of the deal.
In an article published in the state-run People's Daily newspaper, Putin said Russia hoped to export "great quantities" of gas to China in the near future.
Putin is a frequent guest of Chinese leaders, last visiting Beijing in October in his then capacity as prime minister. It was his only foreign trip after he announced in September his plan to run again for president. (AFP)