Question: How do you assess the results of the meeting of the heads of state and government of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia?
Vladimir Putin: The President of Kazakhstan has done much to organize this meeting and we believe it has been very timely and extremely useful. This is the first meeting in such a format to discuss the problems of confidence and security in Asia. We know that it is a region where there are, unfortunately, very many conflicts including some very explosive ones. The progression and tension of confrontations in Asia have repercussions in practically all countries. We are all aware of the confrontations in many Asian regions. The fact that we have not only gathered here today but have adopted two very important documents is a very positive sign and a strong beginning to the process of resolving all the complicated situations taking shape in Asia. In our opinion, it was, I repeat, a very useful and timely meeting.
Question: Could you tell us about the outcome of your talks with the leaders of Pakistan and India?
Vladimir Putin: First, the very fact that the President of Pakistan, Mr Musharraf, and the Indian Prime Minister Mr Vajpayee arrived in Almaty and took part in the general discussion is a very good sign which shows that the leaders of both states have the good will to solve all the problems accumulated between them through peaceful means. I would like to stress that during the course of our meetings, where we discussed both bilateral relations between Russia and Pakistan, between Russia and India, and of course, the Indian-Pakistani relations, both sides expressed ideas that can only be interpreted as a commitment to solving the problems diplomatically. That is very important in itself. We hope that the relations between the two countries will develop along the same lines. Russia for its part, together with our partners in Europe and America, is ready to continue to make a positive contribution to scaling down the confrontation. Both leaders have stressed their interest in direct contacts.
Let me say outright that the two leaders still do not quite see eye to eye on the conditions for organising such meetings, but there is an expressed desire for engagement on both sides. And, just as importantly, the two heads of state have stressed that they do not intend to use force to resolve the problems of the past few years. In my opinion, it is very important and, I repeat, we intend to strengthen our efforts to bring about a resolution of Indian-Pakistani relations. This situation worries not only Russia, but many of our partners in Europe, America and of course in Asia too.
Question: May Russia come forward with initiatives towards the settlement of the Indian-Pakistani conflict?
Vladimir Putin: The meetings with both leaders lasted quite a long time, for about an hour and a half. That is why we have managed to discuss in detail the whole range of very complicated issues between the two states. Actually, we have not counted on anything more. I repeat, the very fact that both leaders have agreed to and have come to Almaty speaks volumes. And it inspires serious hope. I have invited President Musharraf to come to Russia for an official visit, and he accepted. I received an invitation to visit India this year and I hope that I will manage to make that trip. Of course, we will discuss bilateral relations between Russia and those two states, as we have done here, but obviously we will not ignore Indian-Pakistani relations. I would like to stress again that during the consultations today both leaders sent very positive signals regarding the possibility of resolving the conflict by peaceful means. Of course, we will build on the current progress in their relations in order to increase the positive efforts of Russia and other states and do everything to bring the two countries closer together.
Question: How do you assess the situation in Afghanistan and what worries you most of all?
Vladimir Putin: The situation in Afghanistan, of course, is still very complicated. We have said that we are worried by the drug situation. The international community is exerting major efforts to help the Interim Administration to solve that problem. We have spoken about crime and terrorism. We know very well that clashes with organised terrorist units are still taking place in some regions. These problems have been accumulating in Afghanistan over many years. But that is not the main thing. The main thing is that the central government of Afghanistan is increasingly taking control of the country’s situation. The preparation for the Loya Jirga is proceeding vigorously and positively and we very much hope that it will be a success. I am absolutely convinced that Russia, like other partners in the world, must do everything to support the central government of Afghanistan. It is of the utmost importance if Afghanistan is to become a full-fledged democratic state and a full-fledged player in the world. This is the goal we seek. And judging from what is happening in Afghanistan that goal can be achieved.