UNODC Executive Director welcomes decision to set up Central Asian centre to combat narcotic drugs

TASHKENT/VIENNA, February 8 2006 (UNODC) - The Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, on Wednesday welcomed a decision by five Central Asian countries, Russia and Azerbaijan to set up a regional coordination centre in Almaty, Kazakhstan to fight illicit drug trafficking.

The new Central Asia Regional Information and Coordination Centre (CARICC), supported by UNODC, will be staffed by law enforcement officials from the countries in the region. It will compile and analyse intelligence on drug trafficking and coordinate regional law enforcement operations against criminals.

"In the past few years, about one thousand tons of Afghan opium have been trafficked through Central Asian countries into Russia. The threat to the region is serious, not least because of the possibility of drugs money funding terrorist groups," Mr Costa said after agreement on the Centre was reached at a two-day ministerial meeting in Tashkent.

"The establishment of the CARICC is a great step forward in strengthening cooperation against this threat. I commend the Government of Kazakhstan for providing the premises for this new centre, which will provide all the facilities for a courageous and effective fight against drug trafficking and other forms of crime."

UNODC Deputy Executive Director Sumru Noyan, who led the UNODC delegation, said the countries concerned now had a unique opportunity to make progress against illicit drugs. "It is each country's responsibility to demonstrate that it is willing to move the drug and crime control agenda forward by entering into new forms of partnership with its neighbours that combine both the technical and financial resources of donors and partners," she said.

UNODC's regional drug control portfolio in Central Asia is one of its largest, totalling some $40 million per year, and it continues to expand.

" UNODC is committed to supporting Central Asia," Ms Noyan said. "We welcome the growing number of drug seizures and arrests. But it is clear that only a small proportion of the heroin, morphine and opium being trafficked in Central Asia is actually seized here. More needs to be done."

Central Asia's governments also needed to take tougher action against corruption and organised crime, she added. The Central Asian Foreign Ministers expressed concern over increasing drug trafficking through the  region as well as growing drug abuse and HIV/AIDS problems.

Kazakh Foreign Minister Kassymzhomart Tokaev paid tribute to UNODC's efforts to strengthen regional cooperation against drugs and other forms of crime.

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For further information, please contact:
Richard Murphy
Chief, Advocacy Section
Telephone: +43 1 26060 5761
E-mail: richard.murphy@unodc.org

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