07MOSCOW475, ITALY: PRODI AND PUTIN TALK AFGHANISTAN AND

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW475 2007-02-05 13:17 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO7919
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHMO #0475/01 0361317
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 051317Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7164
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 000475 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/05/2017 
TAGS: PREL PGOV RU IT AF
SUBJECT: ITALY: PRODI AND PUTIN TALK AFGHANISTAN AND 
BUSINESS 
 
REF: ROME 188 
 
Classified By: Pol/Min Counselor Alice G. Wells.  Reasons: 1.4 (b/c/d). 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY.  Italian Prime Minister Prodi stopped in 
Sochi January 23 to discuss Afghanistan and Kosovo, bilateral 
trade and the Russian president's March visit to Italy.  On 
Afghanistan, Putin was critical of President Karzai's 
contacts with "moderate" Taliban members.  Putin voiced 
concerns about a "Greater Albania" if Kosovo gained 
independence, while Prodi said the best way forward was to 
gain Serbia's cooperation with the promise of EU membership. 
Putin was critical of U.S. air strikes in Somalia, claiming 
the U.S. coveted Somali energy resources.  He also raised 
concerns about Chinese investment in Africa, and noted that 
the Chinese were seeking to develop an ABM capability to 
counter the U.S.  While lacking the warmth of previous 
Putin-Belusconi encounters, the GOR was relieved Prodi -- in 
contrast to Merkel -- did not raise Russia's human rights 
performance.  END SUMMARY. 
 
2. (C) Italian Prime Minister Prodi's January 23 dinner with 
President Putin in Sochi was the third such meeting since 
Prodi came to office last year, and was requested by the 
Russians to prepare for Putin's mid-March trip to Italy, said 
Sergey Ryabokon of the MFA's Italian section. 
 
AFGHANISTAN: PUTIN CRITICAL OF KARZAI 
------------------------------------- 
 
3. (C) Prodi told Putin that Italy's troop commitment in 
Afghanistan, and Russia's proximity to this combat zone made 
Afghanistan important to both of them, Mario Baldi, First 
Counselor at the Italian Embassy told us.  According to 
Baldi, Putin was especially critical of Afghan President 
Karzai.  Putin accused Karzai of maintaining contacts with 
"moderate" Taliban members.  Arguing that there was no such 
thing as a "moderate" Taliban, Putin maintained that holding 
secret discussions with them undermined international efforts 
 
SIPDIS 
in Afghanistan.  He also accused the Pakistani government of 
holding discussions with Taliban members.  Putin stated that 
the GOR had been approached by Taliban representatives in the 
past, but that he had always refused to allow talks.  Putin 
told Prodi that Karzai was becoming more isolated in 
Afghanistan, even losing support among his own ethnic 
Pashtuns.  The MFA confirmed Putin's suggestion that the 
Northern Alliance be given a greater role in the government. 
 
KOSOVO: PUTIN SAYS BELGRADE MUST AGREE 
-------------------------------------- 
 
4. (C) According to the MFA, Putin told Prodi that he was 
seriously concerned about a "Greater Albania" should Kosovo 
gain independence.  Prodi countered that Kosovar independence 
did not automatically mean integration with Albania, and that 
this could be avoided if "supervised" independence was 
implemented, Baldi told us.  Prodi added that EU membership 
could be offered to Serbia as a reward for approving the 
Ahtisaari plan, noting that membership would be a stabilizing 
factor in Serbia.  Putin told Prodi that Russia would not 
accept any plan that Belgrade did not approve.  He restated 
the GOR position that final status for Kosovo would offer a 
precedent for resolving the frozen conflicts in Georgia and 
Moldova. 
 
SOMALIA: U.S. MOTIVES QUESTIONED 
-------------------------------- 
 
5. (C) Putin was critical of recent U.S. air strikes in 
Somalia, Ryabokon said.  He told Prodi that any such action 
should be conducted with the approval of the United Nations. 
He added that the U.S. too often acted unilaterally, and that 
the U.S.'s true motivation in Somalia was to assert control 
over its natural resources, mainly energy.  The MFA said 
Prodi agreed that the best approach for resolving the crisis 
in Somalia was through the United Nations. 
 
RUSSIAN CONCERNS ABOUT CHINESE IN AFRICA 
---------------------------------------- 
 
6. (C) Putin told Prodi that Russia was concerned about 
increased Chinese investment in Africa, Baldi said.  China 
was developing both its economy and military and sought to 
become a world power.  Nevertheless, both Prodi and Putin 
agreed that they should work with China regarding economic 
cooperation, and, in Russia's case, military cooperation, to 
ensure China played a constructive role in the world, Baldi 
said.  Putin added that China wanted to develop ballistic 
missile interceptors to counter the U.S. 
 
TRADE AND ENERGY 
---------------- 
 
MOSCOW 00000475  002 OF 002 
 
 
 
7. (C) The two also discussed the growing trade between the 
two countries, Ryabokon said.  Trade had increased by 28 
percent since 2005, amounting to about USD 30 billion.  The 
two praised an energy cooperation agreement between Gazprom 
and the Italian energy firm Eni. 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
8.  (C)  PM Berlusconi was one of Putin's favorites, and a 
visit to Sochi was usually accompanied by hijinks like the 
press
availability that featured Putin's pigs or a kissing 
contest at an Italian refrigerator manufacturer's plant.  At 
the same time, Putin could count on Berlusconi taking a 
highly supportive public line on Russian developments.  In 
contrast, Prodi was all business.  However, Moscow will 
likely continue to view Rome as a close friend, given the 
economic and energy ties that dominate the relationship. 
Much of the "warmth" evident during Prodi's brief stop was 
relative:  in contrast to Merkel, Prodi made no 
pronouncements on Russia's internal performance -- a fact, 
according to the Italian Embassy, that Putin commented on 
favorably during his discussions with the Italian PM. 
BURNS

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