Medvedev says no progress in Pakistan, Afghanistan eco deals

2nd September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia on Friday lamented a lack of progress in joint energy projects with Pakistan and Afghanistan that could help bring stability to the volatile region as President Dmitry Medvedev met his counterparts for a security summit.

Meeting his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari and Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai for a four-way summit that also included Tajikistan, Medvedev said Russia was ready to invest "millions of dollars" in the joint energy projects.

"There's a whole range of projects that have been on the table for a long time which have seen no movement forward and which should be implemented," Medvedev said in the Tajik capital Dushanbe.

"It is time to move from words to deeds," he said, referring to a project codenamed CASA-1000, whose aim will be sending power from Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and a transnational gas pipeline.

The four-way summit in the ex-Soviet Central Asian nation of Tajikistan comes after Medvedev hosted Zardari, Karzai and Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon for a rare summit in his Sochi residence in August 2010.

During that gathering the four leaders agreed to pursue joint economic projects to help bring stability to the volatile region.

Russia, Pakistan and Afghanistan all have a troubled history of relations but Moscow is keen to demonstrate it is playing a constructive role in improving security in a region where historically it has had a major influence.

The Kremlin is seeking to expand its footprint in the region as relations between Islamabad and Washington have nosedived since Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in May in a clandestine raid in Pakistan.

Days after bin Laden's killing Zardari visited Moscow, the first official visit by a Pakistani leader since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Speaking in Dushanbe, Medvedev said Russia was ready to invest "hundreds of millions of dollars" into the CASA-1000 project that could send 1,000 megawatts of electricity annually from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"But for it to happen, necessary organisational decisions should be taken first, we have to be invited," Medvedev told reporters after the talks.

He also confirmed Russia's interest in a key transnational gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India.

The 1,700-kilometre (1,050-mile) Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline has been on hold for many years due to the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and economic reasons

The gas price has also been a contentious issue.

"The question is at what price Turkmenistan would be selling gas to the project's participants?" Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko told reporters in Dushanbe.

The TAPI pipeline aims to transport over 30 billion cubic metres of gas annually from the Dauletabad gas fields in Turkmenistan and could become a cash cow for Afghanistan in transit fees.

The four leaders also adopted a joint declaration stressing the importance of linking their countries through modern highways and railroads to improve joint cooperation.

"The immediate focus has to be on increasing connectivity," Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told reporters.

"When this comes, investment comes after that." She stressed Islamabad was keen to strengthen its Soviet-era ties with Moscow.

"There has been historical investment in Pakistan which is still known as Russian investment and we want to give further boost to that," she said.

The four countries also urged the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan to step up the training of local security forces as it completes its planned staged withdrawal.


© 2011 AFP

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