BEIJING, April 3 (UPI) -- Russia and China will step up cooperation to stem the flow of illegal drugs in Central Asia, the countries' top anti-drug leaders say.
Viktor Ivanov, director of Russia's Federal Drug Control Service, met Sunday in Beijing with Chinese Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu as part of a weeklong Asian tour that had already taken him to Pakistan and also includes a stop in Myanmar, the Chinese news service Xinhua reported.
The purpose of the tour, the Russian anti-drug agency said, is to deepen international cooperation in the fight against international drug crime, focusing especially on the trafficking routes used by drug producers in Afghanistan.
Ivanov and the Kremlin say they are seeking to work with China to fight drug trafficking through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a Central Asian security group comprised of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Its members are stepping up their military, intelligence and counter-terrorism cooperation, especially when it comes to Afghanistan, Western analysts say.
Meng and Ivanov said their countries remain committed to fighting drug trafficking through the SCO.
"China wishes to work with Russia to promote the sound development of cooperation in drug control under the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and strengthen communication on major drug issues and encourage the international community to combat drug problems effectively," Meng told Xinhua.
Also on Ivanov's China agenda was attendance at a meeting of the SCO heads of state in Beijing, where the group was to review progress in implementing an 2011-16 anti-drug action plan adopted last year. It established a three-level mechanism for anti-drug cooperation and set up a secretariat with headquarters in the Chinese capital.
The Federal Drug Control Service last month pegged Russia's heroin market at $6 billion, due mainly to imports from Afghanistan's booming poppy production.
Afghan-produced hashish also has a big presence in Russia, comprising a $1.5 billion market, the agency said.
But it's not just Afghan narcotics that present a problem for Russia. Some 10 percent of all illegal drugs consumed there are trafficked from China, Ivanov said last year.
Chinese criminals mainly supply Russian users with methamphetamine and similar stimulants, RIA Novosti reported. The anti-drug chief, however, praised Beijing for prompt cooperation with Moscow once the drug rings were identified, resulting in their cut-off.
Earlier in the week, Ivanov met with Pakistani officials, where similar pronouncements were made to stem the flow of narcotics through tighter communication.
He and Pakistani Narcotics Control Minister Khuda Bux Rajar Wednesday in Islamabad agreed to exchange "real-time" information as well as to enhance operational cooperation and develop a joint strategic plan to control drugs in the region, the English-language Karachi daily The News reported.
Ivanov asserted there was a "dire" need for SCO members, Pakistan and Iran to work together to control the flow of drugs from Afghanistan.
The anti-drug chief's Asian tour comes at a time when Russia says heroin and hashish production are quickly growing in Afghanistan.
Ivanov told the State Anti-Drug Committee in Moscow last month that heroin, opium and hashish production in the war-torn country jumped by 61 percent in 2011, the Interfax news agency reported.
"Opium poppy plantations in Afghanistan have expanded by 7 percent, which indicates that the drug production infrastructure has been growing in that country, spurring drug transit, including toward Russia," he said.
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