President Vladimir Putin: Good Day, ladies and gentlemen. The first part of our talks, our conversation with the Tajikistan President has come to an end. We discussed current problems of our interaction in all areas of our cooperation. First, of course, we talked about economic cooperation. The situation is developing quite positively: growth for 2004 is over 40% of what it was in 2003. According to Tajik experts, it is even higher. At any rate, this is a very good, positive dynamics.
We talked about cooperation in the political sphere, and the situation in the region, with reference of course to how it is developing in Kyrgyzstan. We hope that soon there will be stabilisation there and legitimisation of bodies of power and administration. We are in contact with parliament, with other of our colleagues who are involved in the normalisation process, and we are prepared to provide any help we can to stabilise the situation in Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyzstan is a member of the CSTO and the Central Asian Cooperation Organisation. As you know, we had planned a series of contacts at government level there. Heads of states will gather in Moscow on 8 May and discuss possibilities and a schedule, a plan for our contacts and joint work, which was planned earlier for summer this year. Of course, we will watch how the situation is developing in Kyrgyzstan. A meeting of heads of states was planned for July this year in Kyrgyzstan. I think that it will take place, if by this time the internal political process connected with Presidential elections has finished. The Tajikistan President, as the current head of the Central Asian Cooperation Organisation, will keep this under his control, and will be in contact with all our colleagues.
Of course, we talked about bilateral cooperation in the military and technical sphere, in the sphere of border cooperation. A very important and sensitive aspect for our Tajik friends and colleagues is passport issue – the issuing of foreign passports for Tajikistan citizens who are already on the territory of Russia. We agreed that the Interior Ministry of the Russian Federation would give its colleagues the ability to issue passports to Tajik citizens residing or staying on the territory of Russia, in at least five Russian cities, in premises provided and specially equipped for these purposes by the Interior Ministry of the Russian Federation.
We talked about cooperation in the border control sphere. As you know, Russian border guards are transferring areas of the border to the full protection of their Tajik colleagues. At the request of the Tajik side, we will continue to be present on Tajikistan’s external borders as advisors and instructors. We will provide military and technical aid to our Tajik colleagues in strengthening external borders. This is approximately the list of issues that we talked about, that we discussed. I would like to thank you for your attention. Thank you.
Emomali Rakhmonov: Dear friends, today we discussed an entire complex of issues, concerning above all cooperation in the economy, in the context of realising the agreements which were signed during the official visit by the Russian President to Tajikistan last year. This is a large set of documents. The realisation process has begun successfully. And we forecast an increase in trade turnover by 70%, or according to information from the Russian side, by 40%. Perhaps our experts did not calculate everything, but this year trade turnover between our countries is predicted to double.
We also discussed issues of military and technical cooperation. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the political leadership of Russia, above all to the Russian President, for making the decision to provide military and technical aid to the Defence Ministry of the Republic of Tajikistan. As protecting the Tajik-Afghan border is currently being gradually transferred to the Tajik side, aircraft equipment and other forms of weapons in the possession of Russian border guards on the territory of Tajikistan are also being transferred. We are very grateful for this.
One of the most important issues has been resolved, and a decision has been passed to allow the Republic of Tajikistan to open on the territory of Russia temporary points for issuing foreign passports to citizens of Tajikistan residing in Russia. This has been done to avoid creating additional problems for both Russia and us. We are all very interested, of course, to ensure that the criminal element is not able to exploit the existing situation. I would like once more on behalf of the people of Tajikistan to thank Vladimir Vladimirovich for this decision. I think that this will solve many issues, especially for the Tajikistan’s side.
We also exchanged opinions on the situation with our closest neighbour. They are virtually the same. We wish for the people of Kyrgyzstan, political parties and public movements to solve their internal problems and disagreements within the law, and we will help and support them in this task. As for myself, as the head of the Central Asian Cooperation Organisation, we discussed the situation. As you know, the meeting of heads of government which was planned for March this year in Bishkek was postponed. We agreed that during our meeting on 8 May in Moscow, we would pass a decision on where and when to hold the meeting of heads of government of the CACO. We will also discuss the upcoming meeting of heads of state. It all depends on the situation in Kyrgyzstan itself. That is what I wanted to tell you briefly.
Question: As we know, unfortunately, the manufacture of drugs is still continuing in Afghanistan. Did you discuss this problem, which is important for both Tajikistan and for Russia? And don’t you think that the withdrawal of Russian border guards could to some extent weaken this war on drug trafficking through our country?
Mr Putin: We discussed this problem, and the Tajikistan President informed me about the efforts which the Tajikistan leadership are taking in the war on the drug trade. In general, it must be admitted, a great deal has been done in this area recently, including as a result of joint efforts and – unilaterally – by the Tajik authorities. We welcome this and will continue to develop our cooperation in this area.
For us, this is extremely important work. I will not make any additional comments. In our country we know full well what a serious problem we have encountered. Many even call this drug aggression. And it seems that is the case. For us, this is currently one of the priority areas of law-enforcement activity. We will continue to cooperate in this area in future.
As for our border guards and the transfer of the border, of course this danger exists. This is why we agreed that Russian border guards will not abandon these areas, but will transfer them gradually as the Tajik side is prepared to accept and guard the appropriate areas of their state border.
Additionally, based on these considerations, we consider it necessary to do the following: to provide military and technical and consulting aid to our Tajik friends. And Russian instructors, I repeat, will remain on the border. They will also remain in centres for training specialists of this profession in Tajikistan. This will also be helped by the transfer of appropriate equipment and weaponry, which, we hope, will assist in strengthening of military efficiency of Tajik border guards.
Mr Rakhmonov: I would like to add to what Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin said that by the joint efforts of our law-enforcement bodies and special services, we have learned in the last two years to oppose and fight against this evil. But confiscating and arresting drugs is just one method of fighting it. To solve this global problem, the efforts of the international community are needed, and the problem of reducing the sowing and manufacture of drugs in Afghanistan needs to be solved.
Unfortunately, after the beginning of the anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan, the volume of drug manufacture in Afghanistan has increased by three and half times. We are working with our western partners, members of the anti-terrorist operation which is being conducted in Afghanistan. Major funds were allocated. But where do they go? The flow is not decreasing. So here we absolutely support the efforts of the Russian leadership. It was our initiative to create what I would call an anti-drug coalition in combating the manufacture and distribution of drugs in Afghanistan. And naturally, we require help and support, which we just agreed on with the Russian President, who supports us in this.
Military advisors remain in Tajikistan, and there are border guards in all border units, including in the State Guard Committee of Tajikistan. Furthermore, we have an institute for training military border services. At our request, institutes to train officers for border services are being created in Dushanbe, and currently the creation of an institute for the entire Central Asian region is being examined. We expected that the instructors at these institutes would be Russian officers and specialists, as contact and instruction helps to train specialists in short periods.
But on the other hand, let us not forget that drugs, like extremism and terrorism, are a global problem. The efforts of the entire world are needed for this. It is impossible to combat the expansion of drugs from Afghanistan with the efforts of Russia and Tajikistan alone. We can only reduce the flow of distribution. But this is not a solution. That is what I wanted to say.
Question: A question for the President of the Russian Federation. How do you assess the progress of realisation of agreements which were signed in autumn last year during your first official visit to the Republic of Tajikistan?
Mr Putin: Work is gaining the necessary dynamics. Tajikistan on its part has virtually completed all the internal procedures to realise the agreements reached. We have signed several dozen documents. Russia is doing the same. According to our internal legislation, we must ratify several documents in the State Duma. The government of the Russian Federation will submit these documents (and some of them have already been submitted) to State Duma deputies for their inspection. We have no doubt that they will be ratified. Parallel to this, work is underway at the level of economic subjects. I know that Russian companies are actively working on participation in projects which were agreed upon and which will be settled on in appropriate agreements. This concerns the construction of an aluminium plant, reequipment of an existing facility, and hydroelectric projects. Everything is functioning, everything is moving. We are satisfied.