Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the International High-Level Conference on Afghanistan: “Peace Process, Security Cooperation and Regional Connectivity,” Tashkent, March 27, 2018

Tuesday, 27 March 2018 12:48

Colleagues,

Your Excellences,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Central Asia has a special place among Russia’s foreign political priorities. Russia maintains relations of strategic partnership and alliance with the states of the region in almost all areas of cooperation in the bilateral format as well as in the framework of the CIS, CSTO and other integration organisations. The political dialogue, even at the highest level, boasts an exceptionally high degree of openness and mutual trust.

Economic ties are making good progress. We productively cooperate with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union. In total, Russian investment in the region is $20 billion, with over 7,500 Russian and joint companies working there.

During the last nine years, the total volume of our aid to Central Asian countries, including participation in the programmes of the UN and other multilateral institutions, has exceeded $6 billion.

Cooperation between law enforcement agencies is also developing dynamically. We provide significant help to the Central Asian states, sometimes without compensation, in order to strengthen their armed forces and special services.

The scale of Russia’s multifaceted cooperation with the Central Asian countries and its support strengthen their abilities to face such challenges and threats as terrorism, extremism, organised crime, drug trafficking and illegal migration.

We can state with satisfaction that recently relations inside the five Central Asian states have shown positive dynamics. This means not only conditions to resolve interregional problems, but also to contribute more effectively to assisting Afghanistan. We value the level of cooperation we have reached with the Central Asian states on Afghan issues.

Today common efforts are especially needed. The situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate. In the absence of an intra-Afghanistan political process the Taliban fully or partially controls almost a half of the country, waging active hostilities and organising sabotage.

The expanding penetration of the Islamic State, first of all in the northern provinces that have borders with CIS countries, is a matter of special concern. The group establishes strongholds where they train people from Central Asia, Russia and other states. We regard this as a direct threat to regional and international security.

Drug trafficking is another serious challenge from Afghanistan. According to the data provided by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, last year Afghanistan saw record opium poppy production once again. The Afghan heroin provides substantial financial support to terrorists and extremists both in Afghanistan and even far abroad.

All of this explicitly calls for redoubling our efforts in order to stop the common threats we all face as well as for enhancing cooperation in order to create a peaceful and independent Afghanistan, free from terrorism and the drug business.

It is clear that the conflict cannot be resolved by force, no matter which strategies foreign capitals may approve. Ideas of a military solution are disconnected from historical experience and today’s reality. It is possible to achieve true peace and stability only by launching a constructive dialogue between the Afghan government and Taliban. We welcome the inclusion of this key statement in the final document of the Tashkent conference, as President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani has said today.

To achieve this goal, Russia is ready to foster close cooperation with allies and partners in Central Asia as well as other countries that understand the lack of alternatives to searching for an intra-Afghan agreement.

We are convinced that a comprehensive approach to a settlement is necessary through a search for balance between Afghan parties’ interests as well as taking into account the approaches of Afghanistan’s neighbours and other countries in the regions. We consider it to be a priority to actively involve such important organisations as the SCO and the CSTO, which have already proven their positive role in the Afghan issues in practice.

We welcome the growing understanding of the importance of the regional context in the Afghan settlement process. As has been demonstrated many times, “recipes from afar” that fail to take into account local traditions and specifics do not help but rather harm. We believe that it is necessary to more actively engage the resources of organisations with Central Asian states as members. The principle of regional representation and honest and equal partnership between all key actors, which is the foundation of the Moscow format as well as the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, suits the goal of launching an intra-Afghan peace dialogue best. Consolidation of this understanding must be the main outcome of our conference, which was held very timely at the initiative of President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

All reputed experts agree that a political settlement process will promote further economic cooperation in Central Asia. In its turn, Afghanistan will be able to make good use of its northern neighbours’ capacious market, their transit potential and firm economic connection with the EAEU as the domestic situation in the country normalises.

We put high hopes on this conference, which should promote the common efforts of everyone who is sincerely interested in stability, peace and prosperity in the states of the region.

Once again, I would like to express my gratitude to our Uzbekistani friends for this initiative, which we fully support.

Thank you for your attention.

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