26 May 2009

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin: Russia rules out its military presence in Afghanistan

Russia does not intend to resume its military presence in Afghanistan, but it will assist the international military forces deployed in that country, said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin in an interview with Interfax

"Russian military presence in Afghanistan is impossible. There is a consensus in Russian society on this issue, taking into account the historical record," Borodavkin said.

Talking about the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, Borodavkin said that, "in the current conditions, these troops in fact remain a force curbing the terrorist threat."

"Their presence at this moment meets both interests of Afghanistan itself, as well as regional and in a wider context international security. Proceeding from this understanding, Russia intends to continue to provide political support to the international forces stationed in Afghanistan under a UN Security Council resolution," he said.

Peace and stability in Afghanistan meet long-term interests of both Russia and the NATO member-states, which make up a majority at the ISAF, he said.

"And vice versa, a failure of the ISAF‘s operation in Afghanistan and a buildup of the conflict potential near our southern borders would pose a threat to the interests of Russia‘s national security. This is exactly why we welcome interaction on Afghan affairs within the Russia-NATO Council format," he said.

Moscow views as unacceptable "indiscriminate actions by foreign military contingents inflicting damage on the civilian population," Borodavkin said also.

"Such excesses should be avoided in the future," he said.

At the same time Borodavkin said that Russia could consider a request to assist in the formation of the Afghanistan Armed Forces.

"As for our possible assistance in the formation of the Afghan Armed Forces, we might consider such requests from the Afghan government," Borodavkin said..

Russia could sell its trucks to Afghanistan, for instance, he said.

As for international cooperation on Afghanistan, there is a need to coordinate efforts in fighting against drug trafficking, he said.

"It would be useful for NATO to coordinate its efforts in Afghanistan with the CSTO [Collective Security Treaty Organization] in combating drug trafficking along the perimeter of its northern borders," the Russian diplomat said.

"[Drug trafficking] is one of the major Afghan problems, which spills out far beyond its borders, and ignoring it would be short-sighted, to say the least," he said.

"In our view, international military forces must be more active in fighting against drug criminals," Borodavkin said.

He said also that Russia was not against Kabul‘s contacts with the moderate wing of the Taliban if Kabul sees fit to seek such contacts.

"If the Afghan leadership sees fit to establish contacts with the moderate wing of the Taliban, Russia will not object to this on condition that they lay down their arms, recognize the Afghan constitution and government, and denounce any ties with Al Qaeda," Borodavkin told Interfax.

At the same time, Moscow believes it is important to stick to a clear and principled position with regard to the leaders of terrorist and extremist organizations acting in Afghanistan, Borodavkin said. "We are categorically against any agreements with them," he said.

Russian diplomat also told Interfax that so far no applications had been received from NATO member states for the transit of military cargo to Afghanistan via Russia.

"We have signed a number of bilateral inter-governmental agreements setting out easier terms for military gear and personnel transit to Afghanistan through Russia. Such agreements were signed with Germany, France and Spain. So far we have not received any application for this type of transportation from these countries," he said.

In April 2008, Russia and NATO also signed an agreement for the transit of non-military cargo to Afghanistan for the alliance forces and its member states, as well as all the countries which sent their troops to the country as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Borodavkin recalled.

"According to the Russian regulations, ISAF‘s non-military cargo will be transited by Russia as commercial cargo in accordance with international and Russian customs regulations," he said.

Borodavkin said also that the authorities in Moscow hoped that an upcoming international conference on Afghanistan under the aegis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will help bring stability to the country.

"The agenda of the conference will focus on searching for more effective ways to jointly counter the terrorist and drug threats. Naturally, its results, which its organizers and participants hope to receive, will objectively contribute to efforts to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan," Borodavkin said.

The conference is expected to take place in Moscow on Friday, March 27.

The fight against terrorism and drug trafficking is among the priorities on the SCO‘s agenda and the organization‘s dialogue with Afghanistan, the high-ranking diplomat said.

"Like the whole of the international community, states in Central and South Asia are seriously concerned over the threats posed by terrorism, drug trafficking and cross-border crime," he said.

The event in Moscow will involve SCO member-countries (Russia, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), its observer-nations (India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan), Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, and G8 member-states (the UK, Germany, Italy, Canada, the U.S., France and Japan), he said.

"Authoritative international organizations and associations have been invited to take part in the conference. They include the UN and its agencies, the CIS, the CSTO, the EU, NATO, the OSCE, and OIC," Borodavkin said, adding that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will come to Moscow as well.

The SCO member-countries and Afghanistan plan to make a statement at the conference addressing the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime, he said.

"It will also deal with our fundamental approaches to measures being taken by the international community and countries in various regions to neutralize these threats," the deputy foreign minister said.

An action plan outlining a wide variety of specific measures will be announced as well, Borodavkin said. "They include plans to step up the activities of the consultative mechanism of the SCO member-countries‘ anti-drug agency chiefs and to give it a bigger say, plans to reinforce the legal foundation for cooperation in the combat against the illegal turnover of drugs, and the idea of conducting joint anti-drug operations," the high-ranking diplomat said.

"The results of the conference will be summarized in a declaration, which will reflect the views of all participants in this forum regarding the development and improvement of multilateral cooperation to counter the threats of terrorism, drug trafficking and cross-border crime," he added.