Programmes - Miscellaneous
To watch Mujahid Kakar's Interview with the Russia's Foreign Minister Sergi Lavrov, please click here:
Transcript of the interview:
TOLOnews: First of all, thanks for your time. The Afghan people want to know how much importance Afghanistan has in the Russian foreign policy.
Foreign Minister Sergi Lavrov: Well Afghanistan is our traditional neighbour. We have long history of friendly and good neighbourly relations and of course we are interested in seeing Afghanistan peaceful, stable, democratic, neutral and of course we want the threat of terrorism and drug trafficking which emanate from the Afghan territory to be neutralised. We develop very intensive political dialogue. One year ago, a bit more than one year ago, President Karzai paid his first official visit to Russian Federation. He regularly meets with Russian President in various international multilateral formats, including the context of the meetings of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, including the context of the meeting ... which was created by the presidents of Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan. And economic ministries meet regularly. Our parliament established quite good and intensive contacts and I myself visited several times and received my Afghan colleague in Moscow. We have a lot of common interests and we believe that these common interests are the best guarantee that our relations are sustainable, oriented in the future.
TOLOnews: There is an ongoing dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban, which is also supported by the United States government. How Russia sees this dialogue?
FM Lavrov: Well, certainly national reconciliation is something which is required for a peaceful resolution of the remaining problems in Afghanistan and we support the position of the Afghan government in the context of national reconciliation and this position has been endorsed by the Security Council of the United Nations and provides for dialogue with the people who reject violence as means of achieving political goals, who sever all ties with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups and who recognise and respect the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. On this basis, I think we can strongly support the efforts for national reconciliation. And of course there could be no dealing with the people who are listed by the Security Council sanctions such as Al Qaeda and other terrorists groups.
TOLOnews: Mr Foreign Minister, as you mentioned if the Afghan government or the American do not talk to people whose names are on the sanctions list, so to whom they will talk?
FM Lavrov: Oh, this list is not all embracing. It doesn't include many leaders of Taliban and the principles which I listed have been the principles proposed by the Afghan government and they have been endorsed by the Security Council and by many international conferences. So there are people who fit in these criteria and they should be the interlocutors of the government in the context of national reconciliation.
TOLOnews: So you think that some elements of the Taliban should not be included in the dialogue process?
FM Lavrov: No, I said what I said. We cannot dictate to the Afghan government from outside how the government intends to promote national dialogue and national reconciliation and we support the principles which the government itself formulated and by which the government is being guided in its contacts with the Taliban and others who want to participate in the national reconciliation dialogue.
TOLOnews: Does Russia support peace talks with the Taliban because there are some concerns among the Afghans that the return of the Taliban to power is likely.
FM Lavrov: Look we cannot, as I said, impose upon a sovereign government the ideas related how they should run the country. There is a problem of national reconciliation which has to be resolved and we support the efforts of the legitimate leaders of Afghanistan in this direction. On the basis which is acceptable to them and which is based on the constitution of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on the need who clearly denounces terrorist activities.
TOLOnews: There are some certain groups or opposition leaders in Afghanistan who totally oppose such dialogues and think that there is a type of deal happening among the Afghan government and the Taliban which can undermine the gains of the last decade. Isn't this of a concern to you?
FM Lavrov: Russia cannot give assessments of the political discussion which are taking place inside Afghanistan. We don't interfere in the domestic matters of other countries. I understand that we are not alone who discuss various aspect of the situation in Afghanistan and around it, but unlike some others, we do not dictate to the government how it should build the process of national reconciliation. We know that a part of Pashtons, there are Uzbeks, Tajiks, Hazaras. They all must find their way in the political system so they all feel being part of the process, not isolated. That is the general principle, how to apply them in practice, it's not for us to tell the Afghan authorities.
TOLOnews: Recently the US government announced they will start to drawdown the number of troops in Afghanistan. There is a growing concern that the country would be destabilised after the troops are gone. How do you see it?
FM Lavrov: Well, we see it from the point of international law. The presence of international stabilisation force in Afghanistan has been mandated by the UN Security Council. The mandate is clear. They must fulfill this mandate before they leave and before they leave of course they must report to the Security Council that the mandate has been fulfilled. Everyone understands that by the time the international forces are withdrawn from Afghanistan, the Afghan government itself must possess the capabilities to maintain law and order and to be able to address all security problems inside the country so we believe that these two processes must be synchronised. Before the Afghan government, the Afghans themselves, posses the possibilities to maintain law and order, I don't think it would be productive to withdraw the international contingents without fulfilling their mandate if you wish. And it's also, it's also strange that while insisting that in 2014 the American troops, Nato troops I assume, would leave Afghanistan, at the same time Washington discusses with Afghanistan very purposefully the establishment of four five military bases for the post 2014 period. I don't think why this should be done this way because if you need the military presence, then you continue the implement the mandate of the Security Council. If you don't want to implement the mandate of the Security Council or you believe that you have implemented the mandate already, but still want to establish and keep the military bases, I don't think it's logical. I also believe that Afghan territory should not be used to create some military sites which would cause concern by third countries.
TOLOnews: I want to know from the Russian perspective whether you think Americans have done their job in Afghanistan and 2014 is the time for them to leave?
FM Lavrov: I don't think the job has been done. It's clear that trouble continues in Afghanistan and terrorist attacks do not subsided. We are especially concerned that terrorist activities managed itself in the north of Afghanistan where three years had a quite situation. The terrorists are basically pushed into the northern territories of Afghanistan from where they infiltrate to the central Asian nighbours of the Russian Federation and they don't add to the stability in this region. So we think the mandate must be fully implemented and the Security Council must be approached with a report on how this mandate has been fulfilled.
TOLOnews: Recently there has been a dialogue going on between the Afghan government and the United States government about the long-term partnership and the presence of US troops after 2014. What is the Russia position?
FM Lavrov: I said that we don't believe that the mandate has been fulfilled yet. I don't think that it's logical that by 2014 the job would be over, but we will stay for much longer period inside military bases. I don't understand the purpose of the military bases and besides the United States is talking to Central Asia countries asking for long-term military presence. We want to understand what the reason is for it and why this is needed. We don't think it would be helpful for the stability in the region.
TOLOnews: Mr Foreign Minister, how do you see the Chicago conference which would be focused on Afghanistan? What help would Russia would offer to Nato, particularly on the supply route?
FM Lavrov: We haven't been invited to Chicago conference so I cannot comment on this. We have been assisting the International stabilisation force in Afghanistan by providing transit possibilities through Russian territory so called Northern Route where Russia is actively involved. I think the Northern Route has become the major supply route for ISAF in Afghanistan and I think two third of deliveries are done by the northern route. We believe this is our contribution to fulfill the mandate which the international forces received from the Security Council and we have the right to demand to this mandate to the implementation of which we contribute is implemented before the operation is over. And of course this must be coordinated with the Afghan government.
TOLOnews: Another major issue of common interest is fighting with drugs. How would Russia cooperate to fight drug production in Afghanistan?
FM Lavrov: Oh, we have been in the lead on this thing because the drug production, illegal drug production and illegal drug trafficking, have been increasing. The data which is available from the United Nations is very very troubling. We have been the initiators of so called "pay respect" together with France we have assembled this group of countries who are interested in eliminating the drug threat emanating from Afghanistan and just most February this year a third pay respect conference was held in Vienna which we confirmed a very important principle that fight against drug production and drug trafficking must be comprehensive and they must involve all elements of this industry starting by growing poppy, drug laboratories, ... which are illegally brought to Afghanistan mostly from Europe and of course the distribution route. So this comprehensive approach was reconfirmed in the document adopted in the Vienna conference of pay respect. Apart from this, we have established a cooperative framework in the context of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation where Afghanistan was an observer, special guest rather, and this organisation also conducts special projects aimed at reducing the drug threat. Plus Collective Security Treaty Organisation, regularly, organises operations to intercept drug caravans coming from Afghanistan the operation called canal. And for quite a number of years, we have been proposing to Nato that and this Collective Security Treaty Organisation should cooperate in real time to identify and intercept the drug caravans. So far the Nato is not very much responsive but more than half individual Nato members participated in this operations as observers. So I hope sometime soon Nato would also change its mind.
TOLOnews: There was some reports in media that head of Russia's anti drug agency said that together with Pakistan, Russia will target drug labs inside Afghanistan. Do you confirm that?
FM Lavrov: Look, we don't do anything which would not be supported by the Afghan government. All our efforts are aimed at addressing the drug problem and any other problem inside Afghanistan is only done through the Afghan government.
TOLOnews: With regards to building the Afghan national army, the Afghan government has always asked for international help. Is there any way that Russia helps in terms of training and also provides them with equipment?
FM Lavrov: Oh yes. Not only that there is some way doing it in the future, we have been doing it in the past in a quite considerable amount. A couple of years ago, together with Germany, we donated two medical evacuation helicopters to the Ministry of Interior of Afghanistan free of charge. The supply of small arms and ammunition of small arms has been quite regular. We are supplying 21 helicopters under a contract with the United States for the Afghan army. Annually, we train several hundreds of Afghan law enforcement agency experts. We train also military personnel and drug police by dozens by every year and this assistance will certainly continue.
TOLOnews: The other issue I want to talk is Iran, a country of great importance to both Afghanistan and Russia. There are concerns in the West that Iran might develop atomic bombs. Did you think this is a wrong perception?
FM Lavrov: Well, I think the information on this issue is widely available and all those who interest themselves in this particular issue should read this information and make conclusions for themselves. The international atomic energy agency is working in Iran. Its experts and its equipments monitor all the nuclear sites where Iranians produce nuclear fuels and also where they enrich nuclear for medical and other humanitarian purposes at Tehran research reactor. And, the agency is reporting that they cannot identify military dimension in this programme. At this time they say that they still have some questions which the Iranians must answer because this question is important to conclude 100 per cent the nuclear programme of Iran is entirely peaceful. As soon as it's done, Iran would be out of sanctions because it would have implemented all demands of the international community. The statements by the United States Pentagon and the intelligence community make public statements repeatedly. Just lately, they clearly said that they don't have information that the Iran leadership made political decision to produce nuclear weapon. That is the information is readily available and I believe you should take this into account.
TOLOnews: Recently the Israeli Prime Minister mentioned that they will take measures or even attack the atomic energy development sites inside Iran. Would that help?
FM Lavrov: We believe this would be a huge mistake and we hope that this would never happen and we noticed that the United States during the recent visit of the Prime Minister Netanyahu in Washington, the United States said that they want a political solution. This is a wise approach and the use of force in this region would be catastrophic.
TOLOnews: It's important for the Afghan people to understand whether Russia is concerned if the Taliban is back to power. We have been seeing signs such as the government move to ask women to wear Islamic dressing and not leave the house without a male accompany.
FM Lavrov: I think the Afghan people are wise enough to find a way to handle their domestic problems. We are not meddling with domestic affairs of Afghanistan or any other country. What we do we provide assistance whatever we can to help Afghanistan to build peaceful life. Just a few days ago, there was the first meeting of Russian-Afghan bilateral commission on trade and economic cooperation. They signed a Memorandum of Understanding on rebuilding Kabul housing plant and also some other projects which are of interest to both Russia and Afghanistan which could become instrumental like reconstructing the Salang tunnel, reconstructing several factories in Mazar-e Sharif, small hydropower station and so on and so forth. During the Soviet days, there were about 150 various projects implemented with the Soviet assistance. Most of them could be used very much for the benefit of the Afghan people and we are ready to revitalize all these projects of cooperation, helping build the Afghan economy, helping resolve social problems of the population and of course we want to continue and reach our cultural and humanitarian links. We will be rebuilding the former Soviet cultural centre in Kabul. It will be the Russian cultural centre and I am sure it would be a symbol of our continued friendship.
TOLOnews: You mentioned Salang tunnel, which is widely used to connect north and southern Afghanistan. Are there any specifics that Russia will help with this project?
FM Lavrov: I just mentioned that this being discussed between us and the Afghan government. The tunnel was designed by the Soviet engineers and we still have all the documentations so Russian companies could be effectively engaged in this project. Certainly the issue of financing this project must be discussed and this is what we are discussing with Afghans and other donors. That could be a collect project.
TOLOnews: My last question, how do you see post-2014 Afghanistan?
FM Lavrov: (Laugh) Well, I am not in the business of forecasting. We will certainly prefer that the troops of the international force leave when Afghans themselves are capable of ensuring security in their own country. We will certainly want after this period is over when this terrorist threat and drug threat have been eliminated from Afghan territory that Afghanistan remains peaceful and neutral after all during some part of its history Afghanistan was a neutral country and I think this would be very much logical to consider but that would be for the Afghans themselves to decide. So peaceful, prosperous, friendly, neutral, but it will not come by itself. The efforts of all of us - the friends of Afghanistan - is required to make this happen and will be strongly supporting the government of Afghanistan and the people of Afghanistan on the road to this bright future.
Thank you very much.
TOLOnews: Thank you, Mr Foreign Minister.