Russian busy with intense Central Asia diplomacy

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Valdimir Putin and First Deputy Prime Minister Vikto Zubkov respectively visited Tajikstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan from August 29 to September 2. During these visits, Russian leaders conferred with their counterparts in these countries on global and regional issues of mutual concern, looked into cooperation in the politics, economy and security areas, and signed a series of vital bilateral cooperation documents. Media here deem that these visits of Russian leaders have been crowned with great success.

The visits have helped consolidate and strengthen their political ties with the above-mentioned three countries. Russia and Tajikstan are to further expand friendly exchange, boot strategic partnership and carry out the mutually beneficial cooperation between their countries, said a joint statement the Russian and Tajik leaders issued at the end of their talks.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov went personally to the airport to meet Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin upon his arrival. Both leaders shared the view at the end of their talks that Russian-Uzbek relations would go on advancing or progressing on the basis of the Treaty on Allied Relations signed in 2005. Meanwhile, 'Turkmenistan consider Russia its good friend and strategic partner, and intends to develop (a) strategic dialogue," said President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow during his meeting with Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov.

During their Central Asia trips, Russia signed a host of economic relations and trade documents with the three countries, and spurred the in-depth growth of economic and trade relations among them. Russia, the largest trade partner and also a leading investor in Central Asia, has also achieved substantial outcome during the visits of its leaders to the three nations in the field of energy cooperation.

First, Russia and Uzbekistan have reached consensuses on natural gas price. Kazakstan, Uzbekistan and Turmenistan said in March 2008 that they would sell gas to Russia at European-level prices in 2009. In July 2007, Russia and Turkmenistan reached agreement on natural gas price. Russian Prime Minister Putin said in the Turkmen capital Tashkent on Tuesday, or September 2nd that Russia and Uzbekistan had agreed to switch to a European pricing formula for the purchase of Uzbek gas, and this was the "European pricing formula".

Second, Russia and Uzbekistan have reached consensuses on the project to lay a new pipeline to run along the Capian Sea's eastern coast to Europe via Russia's pipeline network. Prime Minister Putin disclosed that agreements on the construction of natural gas pipeline would be inked in the near future. Uzbekistan this year started building its part of a pipeline that will link Turkmen, Uzbek and Kazakh natural gas deposits. And Uzbek President Islam Karimov expressed the hope to forge the medium and long-term energy cooperation ties with Russia.

During President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Tajikstan, Russia and Tajikstan decided to expand btheir ilateral economic and trade cooperation, and Medvedev said Russia would prefer prioritizing cooperation in the hydropower field to help build hydroelectric stations.

Security cooperation constitutes substantial contents in Russia's ties with Central Asian countries. During the current intense diplomatic moves, Russia signed military technological cooperation agreements with Tajikstan and Uzbekistan respectively. On August 29, or last Friday, Russian President Medvedev and his Tajik counterpart Imonali Rakhmon visited the 201st Russian military base in Dushanbe, and this is the first time the presidents of both countries inspected the base, a military base since October 1, 2005. This Russian military base is a major factor to preserve peace and stability in Central Asia, according to the Russian and Tajik presidents.

Against a global backdrop of Russia's growing contradictions with the West, acknowledge political analysts, the high-level shuttle diplomacy of Russian leaders will further enhance Russia's strategic position in Central Asia, beef up the control of oil and gas resources and help coordinate the positions of Russia and these Central Asia nations on the Transcaucasia issue.

Three meetings of crucial importance would be held as of Wednesday, or September 3rd. They are a meeting with Secretaries of Security Councils of Member States of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the SCO Foreign Ministers Council meeting and the SCO Heads of State Council meeting. The appraisal of the situation in Transcaucasia and the expansion of military cooperation among the member countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization will, among others, be main topics of discussion at these meetings.

Besides Turkmenistan, the four Central Asian countries, namely, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are all members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

[Source: People’s Daily Online, Kazakhstan, 04Sep08]

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