JEDDAH: Russia renewed its commitment to stronger ties with the Muslim world, vowing respect for religious values and a stronger voice for Islamic nations on the global stage at a forum with Muslim leaders here yesterday.
President of Tatarstan Mintimer Shaimiyev took a friendly dig at all those who have a habit of blaming Muslims for everything that goes wrong in the world.
“Thank God, Islam is not being blamed for the global financial crisis,” Shaimiyev said, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the fourth meeting of the Russia-Islamic World Strategic Vision Group at the Jeddah Conference Palace.
He said Russia has become a natural partner of the Muslim world. “One can say that Russia has clearly defined its strategic path in the Muslim East. It has become a natural partner of the Muslim world,” he said.
Shaimiyev, one of the group’s Russian co-chairmen, noted the meeting is primarily about “restoring the required level of trust and predictability in our relations, as well as making clear that the aspiration to develop long-term cooperation with the Islamic world is not just a politically expedient issue for Russia.”
Tatarstan is one of the republics of the Russian Federation. Shaimiyev said there is mutual interest in developing cooperation between Russia and Muslim countries.
“One should bear in mind the fact that a strategic partnership with Russia, which seeks a multi-polar world order and does not encroach on values, traditions, authenticity or sovereignty of countries of the Muslim East, is very important for Muslim countries as well,” he said.
“Russia always occupied a special place in the Islamic world. In Soviet times, global problems were not solved without Russia. Today, the situation has changed and it is necessary to direct affairs using the intellect rather than weapons as it used to be. Tatars have a proverb: ‘The one who is strong will beat one, and the one who is clever will beat a thousand.’ Our age is an epoch of rivalry of wits and modern technologies,” Shaimiyev added.
"During the years of Perestroika, Russia's positions in the Islamic world considerably weakened. Now the role of Russia has grown noticeably ... This will certainly positively affect the influence of the Islamic factor on world politics," Shaimeyev added.
The forum is being organized by the Saudi Foreign Ministry and is specifically discussing Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah's initiative for interfaith and intercultural dialogue.
In an address from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev read by Shaimiyev at the event, Medvedev wholeheartedly supported King Abdullah's initiative.
"Russia, a country with observer status in the Organization of the Islamic Conference, intends to abide firmly to its course to expand active interaction with the Islamic world. In this connection, I think a broad discussion of the initiative to further develop interregional dialogue proposed by King Abdullah is of crucial importance," he said.
"I am also convinced that the implementation of the Russia-proposed idea of forming a consultative council of religions under the UN aegis will help strengthen the moral principles of world politics, facilitate deeper interconfessional communication and, in a broader context, promote the dialogue of civilizations," the Russian president wrote.
"The illusion of the unipolar world is becoming a thing of the past in front of our eyes. This strategic forum can contribute significantly to the search for ways to make the situation in the world healthier and to attain a new level of global partnership," Medvedev wrote. "I am convinced that Russia's active interaction with the Islamic world will help build a fairer system of international relations, where the factor of force will finally stop playing the role of a universal instrument to settle all emerging problems," he said.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Nizar Obaid Madani said: "We highly appreciate Russia's interest in the development of long-term and multifaceted cooperation with the Islamic world."
The president of Tatarstan later called on Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal at the Makkah Governorate on Madinah Road. "You look very much like your late father, King Faisal," Shaimeyev told Prince Khaled. During the course of his discussion with the governor, Shaimiyev reminisced about King Faisal's visit to Russia in the 1960s. He also presented the governor with a CD highlighting that visit.
The Russia-Islamic World Strategic Vision Group was created in 2006 as an advisory body to increase cooperation in all fields between Russia and Islamic countries.
The meeting in Jeddah concludes today.