Russia’s foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Pakistani counterpart Khawaja Muhammad Asif, who is on an official visit to Moscow, agreed to work closely together on all Afghanistan-related processes.
Discussing the Afghanistan situation, the two ministers agreed there was a need for such cooperation in order to find a regional solution to the conflict.
In a press statement issued by the foreign ministry, Pakistan said: “The ministers discussed the prevailing situation in Afghanistan and its implications for the region. They reiterated that there was no military solution to the Afghan conflict and a negotiated settlement through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process was the only viable option for lasting peace in Afghanistan.”
Speaking at a joint press conference following their talks, Lavrov said: “Today, the Russian side reaffirmed its willingness to continue providing assistance to Pakistan in strengthening its counterterrorist activity, which meets the interests of the entire region.
Lavrov said special attention was given to the situation in Afghanistan and around it.
“Both of us are concerned about the worsening security situation in the country, the growing terrorist activity, the narcotics threat that still looms large and the strengthening of ISIS’ (Daesh) position in the north and east of Afghanistan.
“Unfortunately, we have to say that the military presence of the United States and NATO that has lasted for many years has failed to bring peace and stability to the Afghan people.
“Moreover, the Afghanistan strategy that was recently presented by the US administration focuses on the need to increase the use of force and military pressure on the armed opposition, although it is clear to Moscow and Islamabad, as I understand it, that this approach is leading to nowhere.
“We believe that the process of national reconciliation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan based on the leading role of the Afghan people and respect for the interests of the regional states has to be initiated as soon as possible,” he said.
In answer to a question on the problem of Daesh in Afghanistan, Lavrov again said Moscow was “seriously concerned” about the foothold Daesh was gaining in the country.
“We are worried that the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan fail to mention this danger, deny facts and even claim that they are not true. According to the data available to us and our Pakistani colleagues, these facts are true.
“ISIS (Daesh) has established a considerable presence in northern and eastern Afghanistan – approximately a thousand terrorists – and continues to increase it. As for the dangers you mentioned regarding the border with our Central Asian neighbors, it is true that there is an increased risk of terrorists entering Central Asia, which is an easy route into Russia and other countries.
“We believe that efforts must be redoubled to preclude these developments.”
He stated that Pakistan and India recently become full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), “which now has all the key neighbors of Afghanistan among its members”.
He stated that the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, which resumed operation last autumn at Russia’s initiative, will focus on these issues.
The group is preparing for its second meeting, which China will host, he said.
Lavrov went on to say Russia would like to use the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure to develop practical measures to curtail Daesh in Afghanistan and prevent it from spreading to Central Asia.
“As I have said, we will promote a reform of this anti-terrorist structure so that it will not only deal with counterterrorism but will also be used to fight the drug trafficking,” he said.
“Regrettably, the years-long presence of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan has not reduced the terrorist threat, while the drug threat has grown manifold. This data has been provided by the UN and cannot be disregarded.
“We are still waiting for our US colleagues to answer the questions we have asked them many times regarding the public statements made by some regional Afghan leaders about unidentified helicopters making flights to the Afghan regions where terrorists have their bases.
“Nobody can explain the reason for these flights. These legitimate questions are being avoided,” he said adding once again that Moscow is “seriously concerned about the growing ISIS influence in Afghanistan. We are also worried about the attitude of the US-led NATO coalition to this threat and the measures it is taking against it.
“This is happening in the background of statements and the new Afghanistan strategy that is focused on the use of military force. It is unclear against whom military force will be used.
Pakistan meanwhile said in its statement after the press conference that the two foreign ministers expressed satisfaction at the increasing bilateral cooperation and agreed to further intensify efforts to deepen cooperation in all areas of mutual interest, including trade, energy, defense, education, science and technology and people to people contacts.