The Mehr news agency reported that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, and Tajiki President Emomali Rahmon “called for more cooperation” during their summit in the Tajiki capital of Dushanbe on Sunday.
The next summit between Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan be held in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The Pakistani Daily Times reports that Ahmadinejad said the celebrations of Nauroz showed that life only improved after a hard winter, when friends joined forces. “Nauroz represents a battle between the forces of light against those of darkness, the fight against injustice,” Ahmadinejad said at a ceremony hosted by President Rahmon and attended by 15,000 spectators. “Nauroz is traditionally viewed as a new day without poverty, aggression, instability, crime, discrimination, occupation and the abasement of human dignity,” Ahmadinejad said. “All people have the right to live their life in dignity.”
Ahmadinejad is using his visit to the Tajik capital “to ratchet up rhetoric in the face of renewed international pressure over his country’s contested nuclear drive,” writes the Daily Times.
“Only the friends and neighbours of Afghanistan can in practice and realistically help this nation,” Ahmadinejad said in a statement released by his office on Saturday. “The occupiers who came to this nation from miles away are not here to aid the government and the people of Afghanistan but are here to loot the resources and mines of Afghanistan.”
Both Zardari and Karzai gave more restrained speeches that made no reference to the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan or to the United States.
Tajikistan is a small land-locked country that borders Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, China, and Afghanistan and is home to some of the highest mountains in the world. It is the poorest of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia.
Politically, Tajikistan is a nominally constitutional, democratic, and secular republic, dominated by President Emomali Rahmon who has been in power since 1992.
According to the State Department, Supporters of terrorist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), al-Qaida, and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement remain active in Tajikistan, and have carried out terrorist attacks involving suicide bombers.
The four presidents, meeting to celebrate the ancient Persian New Year, or Noruz, urged the expansion of relations between regional countries “to resolve problems facing the region.”
The declaration comes against the background of the increasing economic sanctions against Iran, including the announcement by the Belgium-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT, a clearing system used by the world’s major banks, that it is obeying the European Union’s ban on Iranian financial firms, including some 40 Iranian banks.
Mehr reports that during the summit Ahmadinejad suggested that “the enemies of the region are experiencing many problems and have reached an impasse.” He called for closer cooperation between the four countries.