The Presidents of France and Russia have announced a joint venture to transform the war-torn region of the north Caucasus into a premier tourist destination, they said on Thursday.
The spectacular Caucasus Mountains, which have been the scene of a bloody Islamist insurgency in recent years, are an ideal location to develop ski resorts, the two leaders said.
France, which has vast experienced in ski and mountain tourism development, are the first foreign investors to back the project, which has been in the pipeline for several years. They will bring their expertise to assist the Russians in developing multiple ski and hydrotherapy resorts in the area.
“France is ready to work together with Russia,” said Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Dmitry Medvedev in a statement.
The deal follows on from last July, when prime minister Vladimir Putin said that extremists in the Caucasus region were “running out of time”. He announced back then that Russia would embark on an ambitious drive to make the conflict-wracked region more prosperous.
Since then however, investors have not exactly been scrambling to invest money in a region that saw two wars during the 1990’s.
However, the project announced earlier today excludes Chechnya, the focal point of those wars. Instead, the cluster of resorts will center on Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria and Adygeya.
Russia’s North Caucasus Resorts company will team up with the French firm Caisse des Depots et Consignations during the project, with their main focus at present being to try and attract further investment.
The statement said that contractual details are yet to be finalized, but Russian media reported that the joint venture could cost in excess of 2 billion Euros.
A firm start date for the project has not been announced, mainly due to French security concerns. With unrest in the region showing little sign of abating, it remains to be seen when the plans will actually come to fruition.