China’s President Xi Jinping will embark on his first overseas trip since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world in late 2019.

Hua Chunying, the spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, said in a statement on Monday that Xi will attend the 22nd meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) from Wednesday to Friday.

The SCO summit will be held in Samarkand city of Uzbekistan.

Xi will also pay state visits to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan at the invitation of presidents of the two Central Asian states, Hua added.

The overseas visit of Xi will be the focus of international observers as the Chinese president has restricted himself since the pandemic-forced border closures in early 2020.

He paid a train trip to Hong Kong this June on the 20th anniversary of the semi-autonomous region's return to China in 1998.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is also expected to attend the SCO summit.

Any meeting between Xi and Putin will be their first since Russia’s war on Ukraine started in February.

A multi-national grouping of eight nations, including China, Russia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and India, the SCO is set to accept Iran as its new member.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also expected to attend the summit since Türkiye, besides Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Armenia, is a dialogue partner of the SCO.

As his second term nears an end, Xi’s presidency is expected to be up for debate during the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) which begins on Oct. 16 in Beijing.