Rising influence of Mid East Islamists may affect N. Caucasus - Putin

At a joint conference with the European Commission in Brussels, Russian Premier Vladimir Putin expressed concerns about the rising influence of radical Islamists in Middle East and North Africa, which may affect the situation in the North Caucasus.

 "Despite calming statements that radicals can hardly take over power or strengthen in North African countries, the situation is of great concern for Russia," Vladimir Putin said.

However, Putin noted that the Islamification of North Africa is unlikely, in his opinion, if the democratic process is allowed to take its natural course, without the support of the West.

Putin addressed Western powers with a plea not to interfere in the conflict in North Africa and the Middle East and to allow people there to elect who they want. 

We need to give people a chance to determine their future themselves. We need to give them an opportunity to take a natural way without any foreign interference to build their future,” claimed Putin.

Russian Prime Minister also recalled several cases when the interference of the Western community led to reverse effects of what West wanted.

I would like to go back in history a little bit. The former leader of the Iranian Revolution – where did he live?! He lived in Paris. And as a whole, he was supported by the Western community. Now the entire Western community fights against the Iranian nuclear program."

I remember just recently our partners were very active in supporting democratic elections in the Palestinian autonomy. And Hamas won. And immediately they declared Hamas a terrorist organization and started fighting against it,” said Putin.

Putin added that in the light of the already-rising oil prices, were the Western powers to interfere in the democratic process in North Africa, the world’s economy would be harmed even further.

In a joint statement, Putin and head of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso have urged governments of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa experiencing turbulence to respect human rights and international humanitarian law, as well as guarantee the safety of civilians and foreign citizens.

­Watch video from Brussels conference here

The sides have also focused on the most acute issues, such as energy, trade, co-operation in high-tech and Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization.

Energy partnership became one of the most discussed issues during the conference. Prime Minister Putin criticized the third energy package developed by the EU which is due to come into force in March 2011.

The third energy package implies restrictions for vertically-integrated companies such as Gazprom to own and operate energy and transportation networks. In other words, such a company cannot be a gas supplier and gas transit operator at the same time.

Putin highlighted that the package not only contradicts Russia-EU agreements, but also jeopardizes the positions of Russian companies that are suppliers of energy resources. Besides this, he believes the implementation of the package will push up energy prices in Europe and affect the development of the world’s economy.

According to Putin, the project will not only lead to rising prices in transportation sector, but may also endanger the stability of supplies, and this is not profitable for either side.

Vladimir Putin noted, though, that the discussion of the package is still underway, and added he is sure EU and Russia will be able to find a mutually acceptable solution.

Putin was also very open about the fact that, had the EU already allowed such projects as North and South Stream to pass through the European Union, the prices for energy would be lower.

He reminded the EU that it would in both sides’ interests to allow maximum co-operation between EU and Russia.

­Watch RT business report on the issue

In his turn head of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barrosso explained the third energy package had been designed in accordance with the WTO rules and does not discriminate against mutual agreements with Russia.

Barrosso also added that the EU still wants Russia to remain its primary gas partner.

A new Russia-EU partnership agreement has also been on the agenda. The previous Russia-EU agreement expired in late 2007, but was automatically extended.

On the whole, both Putin and Barrosso remained satisfied with the meeting, saying it was very constructive.

According to the deputy head of the Russian government’s staff, Yury Ushakov, the Russian premier is expected to have a meeting with the president of the European Union Herman Van Rompuy. Ushakov underlined that Rompuy "cut short his international tour to meet Vladimir Putin".

The talks in the Russian government – European Commission format took place ahead of bilateral meetings between Russian ministers and EU commissioners.

The Russian delegation consists of senior Russian government officials including Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin, Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina and Energy Minister Sergey Shmatko.