Press Statement and Answers to Questions at a News Conference with Hamid Karzai, Head of the Interim Administration of Afghanistan 2002-03-12 00:02:02 The Kremlin, Moscow Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon. I would like, first of all, to thank the Head of the Interim Administration of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, and his colleagues for accepting our invitation and coming to Moscow. We highly value the arrival in Russia’s capital of so representative a delegation of a friendly Afghanistan and the results of today’s negotiations. Our discussions covered a very wide range of subjects, including the joint fight against terrorism and narcotics and the promotion of relations in building up Afghanistan’s armed forces and furthering economic cooperation. You know that Russia has given considerable support to the Northern Alliance in its struggle against terrorism. We still believe that Afghanistan needs such support on the part of the international community. But this support, above all in the field of military technology, should be rendered through the central Government. Back in Soviet times, Afghanistan undertook more than 140 building projects with the direct participation of the Soviet Union. Today many of them need modernisation and upgrading, and this offers wide scope for joint work. Lately, Russia has been providing direct support to the people of Afghanistan. We intend to continue this work. Mr Karzai has informed me of an important up-coming event in Afghanistan’s political life, the Loya Jirga. We wish the Afghan leadership and the Afghan people speedy restoration of the political and economic infrastructure, and the establishment of law enforcement agencies and armed forces. Thank you. Question: Joint efforts by the international public and people of Afghanistan have helped us put an end to terrorism and extremism in Afghanistan. What role will Russia play in rebuilding that country? Vladimir Putin: I have already mentioned briefly that Afghanistan’s economy was largely built with the technical assistance of the Soviet Union. In this connection, we have a very good background for restoring these facilities. Specifically, we have plans for several projects, including a power project, that is to say, construction of a power plant with other partners on Tajikistan’s territory to supply electricity to Afghanistan. In the course of this visit a number of our companies, about 10 to 15 economically well-developed firms, expressed readiness to cooperate with partners in Afghanistan. One even came forward with a proposal to launch the project immediately, within the next few months, and to invest something like 50 million dollars at an early stage. The success of economic cooperation will directly depend on the extent to which Afghanistan’s central government manages to normalise the political situation in the country and create the necessary safe conditions for cooperation and business. This is why we urge the international community and Afghanistan’s neighbours to support Mr Karzai and his administration in their efforts to normalise the political process and life in Afghanistan and to build armed forces capable of guaranteeing that safety. Here, too, Russia is prepared to make what contribution it can and a noticeable one at that. Thank you. Question: When you spoke of concrete cooperation, were you referring to Russia’s help with the demining effort in Afghanistan? Vladimir Putin: In the conversation just held, we did not touch upon that issue, but I know that Mr Karzai discussed the problem with Russian colleagues today and yesterday. Russia’s participation in this work is, of course, only natural because Afghanistan has a lot of Soviet- and Russian-made ammunition on its territory. In addition, Russia has ample experience in conducting this kind of operation in other regions of the world. I am referring above all to specialists from the Emergencies Ministry. A recent tragedy that claimed the lives of several military personnel from Germany and Denmark is a further reminder of the need for Russian professionals to take part in operations of this kind. We have offered to work together with both our Western partners and our Afghan friends. We have done this in the past and are doing it now. This work may follow two lines. One is the direct participation of Russian experts in demining efforts from an international centre that we propose should be set up. The other is for our engineers to train Afghan specialists, to prepare local personnel for mine-clearing jobs.