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18 Aug, 2010 14:04

Medvedev urges not to turn back on Soviet projects

Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan could come back to developing Soviet-era economic projects, President Dmitry Medvedev has said at the four-country summit in Sochi.

“We have projects that were historically developing in our region and projects that appeared in the Soviet time. I believe it would make sense if we revert to them in order to add dynamics to economic development and solve a whole range of urgent problems, including in the fields of energy and social development,” Medvedev said at the meeting with his counterparts, cites Interfax.

The Russian head of state underlined that the fulfillment of a number of social tasks in the region would depend on the way the economic cooperation between the four states develops.

Prior to the joint meeting with the presidents of the four states, Medvedev held bilateral talks with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Afghan head of state Hamid Karzai and Tajikistan’s leader Emomali Rakhmon.

The Sochi summit has become the second time when the countries’ leaders got together: their first meeting took place in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe in 2009.

“This is a normal, functioning regional format,” Medvedev said in his opening speech. The more consultations the states have within the region, the better, since the situation in the area remains tense, he said. “There are well-known complications with building a state in Afghanistan; we have our common fight against terrorism and drug-trafficking, and other threats including natural disasters,” the Russian president stated.

Following the talks, the four signed a joint statement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told journalists.

The situation in Afghanistan and consequences that situation creates for other countries, including Russia and Europe, were topping the agenda. “First of all that is the threat of terrorism and drug trafficking,” Lavrov said.

In their statement, the leaders qualified both terrorism and narcotics trafficking as a threat to international peace and stability and underlined their determination to build up efforts “to fight this evil”, he added.

All the leaders expressed their support to the military operation entitled “Canal” which is carried out by the Collective Security Treaty Organisation or CSTO. The aim of it is to intercept caravans with drugs flowing from Afghanistan. All the four states are taking part in the operation – Russia and Tajikistan as the CSTO members and Afghanistan and Pakistan as monitors, Lavrov said.

It is planned that the next summit of the quartet will take place in Dushanbe.

Karzai seeks support in Sochi

It is important for Moscow to maintain relations with Asian countries “in a working condition”, believes General Leonid Ivashov, president of the Russian Academy of Geopolitical Affairs.

The topic of Afghanistan was in the spotlight at the summit and Medvedev’s meeting with his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai shows Russia’s multi-vector policy, he told RT. “In a way it is a demonstration of [Russia’s] abilities, first of all – to [US] President Barack Obama.”

For Hamid Karzai, who is in a precarious position, the Sochi summit is an attempt to get support. “He signalizes to his compatriots – who are extremely dissatisfied with the coalition’s outrages – that he sees Russia as a partner. The ranking of Russia – the successor of the USSR – is a lot higher within the Afghan population than the ranking of the US and its allies,” Ivashov said.

As for the drug trafficking issue, the Afghan leader “does not have enough power to solve the problem.” Russia cannot solve it alone either. “Moreover, NATO refused to cooperate with Russia in fighting the growing influx of drugs into our country,” Ivashov reminded.

Ivashov believes that it is the US and international drug structures who control the production of narcotics in the region as well as their trafficking. Therefore, “all gatherings on the drug trafficking issue – without the US participating in them – highlight the topic yet again.”

Political analyst Andrey Pravov says that it is impossible to solve the Afghan drugs problem without the US.

Washington, however, “does not demonstrate any true readiness to address the issue.”

“Karzai understands it perfectly well that it is impossible to simply eliminate poppy fields. Peasants will die of hunger,” Pravov told RT, adding that the deliveries of corn and wheat Afghanistan gets from the UN and the World Bank in aid is too small to replace the poppies.