MIL OSI Translation. Region: Russian Federation –
Question: Now, as the situation in Afghanistan develops, many experts have the impression that the hasty withdrawal of US troops from the country was a planned action in order to create tension in the zone of Russia’s geopolitical interests. Do you agree with this assessment?
Do you admit the likelihood that after a while you will have to deal directly with the Taliban as the administration of Afghanistan?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: I am not a supporter of conspiracy theories. I heard that perhaps this hasty withdrawal of troops is pursuing some kind of geopolitical goal. We mustn’t guess. The Americans left, as US President George Biden confirmed, because they considered their mission fulfilled. He tried to present the situation in the most positive colors, but everyone understands that the mission has failed. This is openly recognized, including in the United States itself.
Terrorism has not disappeared anywhere. ISIS and al-Qaeda branches have strengthened their positions in Afghanistan. Drug production has reached record heights: 90 percent of all drugs in the world originate from Afghanistan. Almost nothing is done to combat this.
The creation of the Afghan National Security Forces – the Armed Forces of the country – can be considered as such very conditionally. Statistics show that 300,000 troops are in the service of the Afghan government. There are three to four times less Taliban. However, you see the following result.
We are not interested in chaos there. Not only because we do not want it to flow into neighboring countries that are allied to us, but also because we wish the Afghan people well. We hope that these friendly people to us live peacefully, in a society that is developing steadily, without any threats of terrorism or drug trafficking originating from this territory.
We will continue to work with the Americans in the format of the expanded “troika” (Russia-USA-China plus Pakistan), as well as with all other countries that in one way or another may affect the situation in Afghanistan, including our partners from Central Asia , with India, Iran, with the same USA. We have a Moscow format that includes all major players.
We are not working to have one force in Afghanistan overpower another, because that will be an unstable, fragile and temporary solution. This has already been done. All our pathos in statements in contacts with the parties, all efforts are aimed at ensuring that the dialogue, which should lead to a political settlement, is inclusive, with the participation of all political, ethnic and other groups in Afghanistan without exception. This includes the Taliban as part of the Pashtun ethnic group, Uzbeks, Hazaras, Tajiks – all those who live in the IRA. All of this is the focus of our efforts as members of the Moscow format, the expanded troika.
This conference is largely devoted to creating a favorable external environment for Afghanistan to be “reconciled”. In turn, this is fundamentally important for the main goal of the current conference, namely, the development of promising cooperation projects that will link Central and South Asia.
It is unlikely that in the current situation, while degradation continues in Afghanistan, someone will seriously think about investing in this country. But if the IRA is peaceful and reliable for the arrival of business, capital, infrastructure projects, this will seriously help ensure the effective functioning of the unified transport, logistics and other systems of this vast region.
Question: Russia plans to work with all countries that can influence the situation in Afghanistan, and recently the Pakistani Foreign Ministry announced that it was preparing a conference and invited to take part in it. Will the Russian Foreign Ministry be represented and at what level?
Could you comment on the situation in South Africa. South African President S. Ramaphosa said that the protests and provocations, incl. with slogans calling for ethnic confrontation were deliberately provoked. How do you assess this situation? Are Russia’s interests affected, taking into account our partnership of countries in the BRICS?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: I must say right away that we have nothing to do with the processes, the more violent protests in the South African Republic and in any other country in the world.
As for the upcoming events in Afghanistan, there will be many of them now. A trip is planned for a group of Afghan politicians, but without representatives of the Government, led by A. Abdullah. He is the Chairman of the Supreme Council for National Reconciliation of Afghanistan. With him, as I heard, a delegation is expected to travel, in which other ethnic groups of Afghanistan will be represented – Tajiks, Uzbeks and others. They are going to go to Doha to meet the Taliban. After that, they planned to visit Islamabad. Pakistani Foreign Minister Sh.M. Kureishi told me about it this way. We wanted to do it as soon as possible, but now all this has been postponed until July 25.
Here, at the conference, on the sidelines, they are discussing some other formats. There may be a great many of them now. Everyone wants (most of the best intentions) to help in some way to give impetus to a political process that has long been at a standstill. It seems to us that we do not need to invent any new agreements for this, but we need to fulfill what has already been agreed by the Government of Afghanistan, first of all, and the Taliban Movement.
Question: Did you get the impression after the talks in Dushanbe and Tashkent that the Central Asian countries will heed Moscow’s advice not to allow the creation of American military bases on their territory? Which countries can complement the expanded three format? Did Moscow promise any assistance to Kabul at your meeting with Afghan President A. Ghani?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: I have no obligations to the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. President A. Ghani, like the Taliban, has an obligation to start a serious political process. Recalling this, we expressed the hope that all parties in this situation will fulfill the agreements, which, among other things, were reached with the participation of the international community.
As for the plans of the Americans, they do not hide them, but actively voice them. First, try to persuade the Central Asian countries and Pakistan to host part of the military infrastructure that the Americans are withdrawing from Afghanistan. But Pakistan and Uzbekistan have already officially stated that this is out of the question. They will not place such infrastructure on their territory. We also talked about bilateral contacts. At the meeting of the foreign ministers of the five Central Asian countries and the Russian Federation, none of our allies announced their intention to expose their territories and populations to such a risk. We also discussed another initiative of the Americans. That they will try to withdraw the Afghans who collaborated with them from Afghanistan and place them either temporarily or permanently on the territory of the Central Asian countries. At first, it was about ten thousand. Recently, I heard already in the framework of American discussions in various political science centers in the United States, a figure of one hundred thousand was mentioned by the end of the year. This was also mentioned today in contact with my Central Asian colleagues. They perfectly understand all the risks that lie in these plans. They will probably make the right decision based on their own interests.
We mean that this troika discussed in particular the candidacies of India and Iran. I believe that this would enrich the possibilities of this format. Let’s see how things go.
Question: You met today with the leader of Uzbekistan Sh.M. Mirziyoyev. What questions were on the agenda? What did you agree on? In general, have the “macro-expectations” from the current conference come true?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: I don’t know what the expectations were. We came here with an eye to an interesting discussion, a substantive conversation about how this representative assembly can help promote cooperation and interconnection projects in Central and South Asia.
We have close relations with almost all countries in these two regions. Major infrastructure, energy and other projects are being implemented with most of them. We are interested in how the partners see future cooperation in these areas.
We have heard a lot of, in our opinion, correct initiatives that will help promote practical projects more effectively. I will single out the solid speech of the President of Uzbekistan Sh.M. Mirziyoyev, who named ten directions in which this connectedness can be most effectively embodied in concrete actions, relying on centuries of history, experience accumulated over these centuries and using modern technologies. This is a good combination that should allow you to achieve maximum results.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and / or sentence structure not be perfect.