Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Shanghai
Photo: Dmitry Azarov
Putin Brings Iran into the SCO
// Iran and Russia ready to calculate the world's gas prices
Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday. He listened to his proposal to hold a conference of SCO energy ministers in Tehran and responded with his own proposal on beginning negotiations on the SCO's proposals relating to the transfer of the Iran nuclear case to the UN Security Council. In the second half of the day, Putin announced that Ahmadinejad not only agreed to his proposal, but even promised to name a date for those negotiations in the near future. Kommersant special correspondent Andrey Kolesnikov was dumbstruck by this triumph of Russian diplomacy.
The leaders of all the observer states who came to the summit participated in the negotiations. Those were the Presidents of Mongolia, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Indian Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas and, of course, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The attention paid to Ahmadinejad was unnatural. Journalists showed more interest in him than in all the other heads of state combined. Everyone was waiting for earth-shattering news from him.
After the full members of the SCO had spoken, Ahmadinejad began his speech with a short prayer to Allah to “speed the arrival of the Prophet Mahdi.” He said that Iran wants “international peace and international security based on justice, respect for people and combating injustice.” Furthermore, “it is necessary to develop and implement concrete economic projects in the field of transport and to create zones of joint investment.” Then he spoke of educational initiatives and proposed “sharply increasing the energy dialog in the region and taking specific measures in the energy field, including exploration, production and transport of natural resources and their joint exploitation.”
Ahmadinejad looked around slowly at his audience. He looked as if he were having fun.
“I propose coordinating the SCO policy on combating terrorism,” he continued. That could have been misunderstood, of course. “Iran, in light of its geopolitical position in the region, is prepared to develop cooperation for establishing peace and security, and I hope it will be a witness to the SCO's success in this matter along with everyone else.”
It makes sense that the summit's organizers spoke to Ahmadinejad in advance, asked him to speak cautiously, since the SCO leaders have a geopolitical strategy of their own and the observers invited to that celebration of multipolarity were not to throw any monkey wrenches in their plans. The Iranian president looked disingenuous nevertheless. And he achieved more than he could even have dreamed of if he had acted differently. The proposal for a conference of energy ministers in Iran and the proposal to participate in the development of Iranian mineral deposits and the transport of energy resources through the territory of Iran were obviously carefully calculated to upset the Americans. It was a challenge of a completely different nature.
That was just the beginning of the day. The SCO leaders (without observers) signed documents on international informational security, “the threat posed by the use of informational communications technology for criminal, terrorist and military-political purposes incompatible with guaranteeing international security.” On close reading, it was milder and less threatening to freedom of speech than might have been expected, a generally empty document, the likes of which is unavoidable at such events. An hour later, the summit was over and the Russian and Iranian presidents met in Putin's hotel. (He met with the president of Pakistan and Mongolia the same day.) Ahmadinejad is a man of great charisma in person.
Putin met him with a polite statement about the close historical ties between their countries.
“We had a very good meeting in New York,” Ahmadinejad said, recalling their last meeting, when it was his turn. Our view of relations with Russia is a view on very strong relations. As for the main tendencies of Iranian foreign policy, that is a view to the East and to our neighbors. In many things, we do not see Russia as a rival. And even rivalry can be beneficial to our countries in many things. We can cooperate closely in the field of natural gas. Especially from the point of view of jointly setting the price for gas and the main direction of its flow.” He paused briefly. “With the goal of stability throughout the world.”
He went on to suggest that Iran and Russia “cooperate closely in Iraq, in the Persian Gulf, in Central Asia and in the Caucasus,” a suggestion that could not but intrigue the Russian president.
“As for the nuclear field,” he continued, “I think you know everything. Our positions are clear and close. Support for each other is an integral part of the policy of our countries!”
“We are probably the only country that is cooperating with Iran in the field of the peaceful use of atomic energy and fulfilling our commitments,” Putin responded, seemingly pleased. “All countries have the right to realize their plans in the field of high technology. We have discussed Russia's initiatives up to the establishment of an independent enterprise [to enrich uranium in Russia for use in Iranian reactors]. I think we should go further! We have practically formulated our proposal for the establishment of an international network of atomic centers. Access to technology should be free and nondiscriminatory.”
Putin said, seemingly for the benefit of the reporters before they were asked to leave, that “Russian and Iranian companies are negotiating on joining forces in the oil and gas field” and establishing joint oil and gas enterprises.
All the Article in Russian as of June 16, 2006