Question: On October 29, the Kyrgyz Republic will elect its President. Askar Akayev’s successor would be expected to fulfil the agreements which have been signed today. What would you like to wish the new President, and what do you think of Askar Akayev’s chances of being re-elected for another term?
Vladimir Putin: We are discussing specific aspects of ensuring regional security. All states, including Kyrgyzstan, are interested in this. I am convinced that, no matter who is elected President of Kyrgyzstan, he will abide by the agreements reached during our work and at today’s meeting.
Making predictions is a thankless task. We have gathered here to discuss other issues; and we do not want these talks to have anything to do with the Kyrgyz election campaign. I do not want to make any statements regarding Mr Akayev because that would not be proper or objective. I do not know any of the other presidential candidates, but I have a special connection with Mr Akayev, who spent 17 years in St Petersburg, my home town, and I consider him to be a fellow townsman. I wish him every success, but I want to repeat once again that I do not want our current work to be linked with the republican elections in any way.
Question: Will the Collective Security Treaty Organisation promote international contacts and serve as a regional security system? And how do you expect the international community to react to this?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, the Secretary-General of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation has been instructed to maintain contacts with international organisations. As far as the international community’s reaction is concerned, this organisation has been registered with the United Nations for a long time. I believe that the influence of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation on international processes will depend on our ability to coordinate joint actions and on the effectiveness of such actions. My colleagues and I would like it to exert substantial influence. Judging by today’s mood, this goal can be achieved.
Question: It is strange that Uzbek President Islam Karimov did not attend today’s forum, which discussed Central Asian security.
Vladimir Putin (speaking after Alexander Lukashenko): Each state independently charts its own domestic and foreign policy. But all heads of state who are present here maintain close contacts with Uzbekistan and cooperate actively with national leaders.
We would have an additional opportunity to exchange opinions on the regional situation if the President of Uzbekistan were here. But I want to tell you there is nothing bad in this. It should not be doubted that we are doing all we can together with Uzbekistan in the context of present-day developments.
Question: Uzbek President Islam Karimov recently said the Taliban movement in Afghanistan does not threaten Central Asia. But your latest statement implies the opposite is true. Could you say a few words on this score?
Vladimir Putin: It has been said today already that Uzbekistan is not a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. This is why we are merely speaking our mind and not commenting on the statements of our colleagues. Our opinion is based on that of the UN, which has clearly formulated its views on the Taliban movement. Moreover, it is our opinion that the international community must now consider the possible exodus of Afghan refugees to CIS countries as a situation that may cause enormous humanitarian problems.
The documents approved at this summit outline our stand on this issue.
Question: What do you think about the Middle East peace process?
Vladimir Putin: After arriving in Astana, I spoke by telephone to Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who told me that the positions of the parties involved were moving closer together. Some of the agreements which have been reached give us hope that the peace process will resume. Russia is calling for an immediate end to violence and is urging the concerned parties to negotiate and settle all disagreements by peaceful means in spite of the problems involved.
Russia believes that this would make it possible to find compromise solutions to disagreements. Russia has too many domestic problems to serve as a mediator in hot spots, and it is not our goal to take part in settling every conflict. We have not, however, ruled out that possibility, and we are ready to engage in such work if the concerned parties are interested. This is the only principle that can be applied here.
Russia is ready to help settle all these issues because we believe that global stability is something precious, and Russia as a country is interested in helping to achieve it.