Afghan president to visit Russia this week
Afghan President Hamid Karzai plans to visit Moscow this week to hold talks with Russian officials on economic cooperation, including possible fuel supplies, an official said Monday, DPA reported.
During the two-day-visit, expected to begin Thursday, Karzai was scheduled to hold talks with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, presidential spokesman Siamak Herawi said.
The meeting between the two erstwhile foes came amid a shortage of fuel in Afghanistan, which began in mid-December after Iran cut its fuel supply route to its eastern neighbor.
Afghan officials rejected Tehran's assertions that NATO was using Iranian fuel for military purposes in Afghanistan.
Commerce Minister Anwarul Haq Ahadi said he was not happy with the progress of negotiations with Iranian officials to lift the blockade, adding that the Afghan government was trying to procure fuel from other sources.
"Tomorrow I will be leaving for Moscow, and I will be asking them if we can enter into a new arrangement regarding a supply of fuel from there," Ahadi said Sunday.
The blockade has increased fuel prices in Afghanistan by as much as 30 per cent and has sparked angry demonstrations in Kabul and the western province of Herat against Iranian diplomatic missions.
Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan in 1979, sparking a decadelong war with Afghan resistance groups who were backed by the United States, Pakistan and other Muslim countries.
The relations between Kabul and Moscow have improved since the ouster of the Taliban regime in late 2001.
Last year, Russia agreed to allow NATO to transport military shipments via its territory for nearly 150,000 international troops battling Afghan militants.