Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at a UN Security Council meeting on building regional partnership in Afghanistan and Central Asia as a model to link security and development
At the outset, I would like to highlight Kazakhstan’s consistent and responsible approach to advancing issues that are priorities for Central Asia and its focus on solving specific problems facing the region.
We welcome the initiative of our friends from Kazakhstan in convening today’s debate on an issue that is an urgent one for many countries and takes on particular significance against the backdrop of the growing terrorist and narcotic threats emanating from Afghanistan, which are having a destabilizing effect on Central Asia and spilling over its borders.
Northern Afghanistan is becoming a base of support for international terrorism, led by the Afghan wing of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, which is establishing a springboard for realizing its destructive ambitions in the region in the spirit of the caliphate’s notorious ideology.
With the flagrant collusion and sometimes direct support of both external and local sponsors, thousands of fighters of various nationalities are entering the region under the banner of ISIL, including jihadists who escaped defeat in Syria. They openly proclaim that their goal is overturning the legitimate Governments of Central Asian States and spreading their influence throughout Eurasia.
In the past year we saw unprecedented growth in Afghan narcotics production, as my Polish colleague just mentioned. It will be essential to take urgent measures to curb this threat, which fuels international terrorism, undermines the stability of States and the health of young people and triggers crime and corruption.
The development of a comprehensive strategy to combat drug trafficking was the focus of an international conference of parliamentarians against drugs organized by the Russian State Duma in Moscow in December. We welcomed the participation in the conference of representatives from the United Nations, along with a host of Russian and international non-governmental organizations. The situation in Afghanistan requires a comprehensive approach on the part of the States of the region and the international community as a whole. The experience of the past 20 years is vivid testament to the futility of attempts to use force to solve the problems plaguing Afghanistan.
What is on the agenda is adopting practical measures to launch a process of national reconciliation on a basis of the relevant Security Council resolutions. Guided by those views, we have launched a dialogue in the Moscow format in conjunction with our partners and like-minded stakeholders, reviving the work of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization-Afghanistan Contact Group.
We are building a partnership between Afghanistan and the Collective Security Treaty Organization. We welcome the initiative of Uzbekistan to convene a ministerial meeting this spring on a settlement of the Afghan settlement. We continue to assist Kabul in training national civilian and law-enforcement personnel to strengthen the military capabilities of the Afghan armed forces.
We consistently advocate for starting direct talks as soon as possible between the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban movement, based on criteria approved by the Security Council, in the interests of ending their fratricidal war. As security issues are addressed, one of the major factors in stabilizing Afghanistan must be sustained socioeconomic development. Both the Eurasian Economic Union and the Commonwealth of Independent States can contribute to the general efforts by opening broad and promising markets in Afghanistan.
Russia is open to multilateral cooperation in implementing major economic and infrastructure-based projects, including the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-PakistanIndia gas pipeline project and the Central Asia-South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade project. At the heart of our alliance and strategic partnership with the Central Asian States is shared history, a high degree of mutual trust and unified approaches to major current issues. Our trade and economic ties provide a sound foundation. Russian investments in the region total $20 billion, with more than 7,500 Russian companies and joint ventures with Russian capital working productively in the area.
During the past decade the aggregate volume of our assistance to Central Asian countries exceeded $6 billion, both bilaterally and through international organizations, including within the framework of the implementation of the Goals outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
We believe that the region’s issues regarding the energy supplies and access to water resources should be addressed through constructive dialogue and a mutual consideration of interests in the areas of hydropower and agriculture in order to benefit all the peoples of the region.
The particular geographical location of Central Asian countries determines the importance of improving the effectiveness of making use of various forms of transportation for providing reliable trade and economic links with States in the Asia-Pacific region, including South Asia and Europe.
Russia stands ready to contribute to that process through the development of East-West and North-South international corridors. In order to achieve that, we are working to establish a single transit system through the Eurasian Economic Union and its Chinese counterpart, the Belt and Road Initiative. That approach will enable the Central Asian region to strengthen its role in the continental transportation system.
Eurasia today needs mutually beneficial cooperation based on a balance of interests. External actors should do everything they can to facilitate this without trying to drag the countries in the region into a zero-sum game, the notion of which appeared in the concept of a so-called greater Central Asia, which it seemed might happily have been forgotten but which has recently reared its head again.
Central Asian countries should not be presented with a false choice between South and North. The region needs a constructive environment and partnership with all stakeholders, and certainly all its countries must respect all their obligations within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Eurasian Economic Community.
The large-scale plans aimed ultimately at improving the well-being of the peoples of Central Asia and Afghanistan can become a reality only when there is lasting peace and stability throughout the Asian continent. Russia has consistently worked to bring together efforts in the interests of establishing an architecture of equal and indivisible security that reflects contemporary realities in the Asia-Pacific region.
The prospects for stability, peace and prosperity for States in the region are closely linked to the ongoing development of a fairer, more democratic and polycentric world order, based on international law and respect for the cultural and civilizational diversity of the peoples of the world.