Medvedev hails support from China, Central Asia

DUSHANBE — President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday claimed backing from China and four Central Asian states for Russia's actions in Georgia and said their support should send a "serious signal" to the West.

"I am sure that the united position of the SCO member states will have international resonance," Medvedev said at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Council (SCO), grouping Russia, China and four ex-Soviet Central Asian states.

"And I hope it will serve as a serious signal to those who try to turn black into white and justify this aggression," he said in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe, referring to Georgia's attack on the rebel province of South Ossetia.

The six-member group was expected to issue a joint statement, a draft of which was seen by AFP, later on Thursday, expressing support for Russia's role in efforts to restore stability in the Caucasus.

Russia is facing an avalanche of condemnation from the West over its decision to recognise the independence of two Georgian secessionist regions at the heart of the conflict that erupted this month.

The Kremlin has reacted angrily to the criticism, arguing the West fails to recognise that Russia used military force only in response to a Georgian attack against South Ossetia, where tens of thousands of Russian citizens live.

Medvedev condemned Georgia's "aggression" against South Ossetia, which prompted Russia to send troops deep inside Georgian territory on August 8.

The Russian president implicitly called on the United States to halt its support for Georgia, which is seeking to join NATO and whose troops received US training.

"It's well known who helped Georgian authorities and even encouraged them in pursuit of their own aims. This is unacceptable and must end," he said.

Medvedev met Chinese President Hu Jintao in Dushanbe on the eve of the summit and informed him of the situation in Georgia.

China on Wednesday said it was "concerned" and called for "dialogue and consultation" to resolve the issue.

The leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan all belong to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a regional group set up in 2001 to counter NATO influence in the strategic Central Asia region.

Medvedev said the regional group was committed to bolstering security and stability, a goal that the Kremlin leader stressed could only be achieved "through a rejection of confrontational thinking".

Russia's relations with the West have plunged to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War over the conflict in Georgia.

Medvedev on Tuesday drew blanket condemnation from the West when he announced Russian recognition for South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were also attending the talks in Dushanbe. The countries have observer status in the SCO.

Leaders were also due to discuss the possibility of Iran joining the grouping as a full-fledged member.

The leaders of Afghanistan, Iran and Tajikistan will meet later on Thursday for a meeting of Persian-speaking countries.

The summit was also to focus on counterterrorism, drugs and transnational crime from Afghanistan, a Kremlin official said ahead of the talks.

"There are also questions of socio-economic cooperation, particularly in the sectors of energy, transport, trade, finance, information technologies and agriculture, on the agenda," he said.


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