Lavrov in Afghanistan paving way for international conference

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is in Afghanistan for one-day consultations setting the stage for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) special conference on Afghanistan, scheduled to be held on March 27 in Moscow.

According to Lavrov, G8 officials, the leadership of the UN, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and NATO are all invited to attend the conference.

“We hope that the forum will be able to reach specific agreements on the joint actions to combat drug trafficking and the spread of terrorism,” the Russian Foreign Minister said, adding “and will promote their efficiency.”

Lavrov’s Afghan visit schedule includes talks with President Hamid Karzai and the country’s Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta, as well as meetings at the country's parliament, news agency Prime-Tass reports.

Lavrov and his Afghan counterpart have signed an intergovernmental agreement to join forces against drug trafficking.

The Russian Foreign Minister has said drug trafficking, as well as terrorism and organized crime, are the main obstacles to the peaceful development of Afghanistan.

Fight against drug trafficking is a vital issue for Russia, as up to 90% of its drug addicts take Afghan opiates, in particular heroin, according to the head of the Russian Federal Drug Control Agency, Viktor Ivanov.

At a recent news conference he said about 12 tons of heroin (approximately three billion hits) are trafficked to Russia annually.

Sergey Lavrov has invited Foreign Minister Rangin Spanta to pay a visit to Moscow. Spanta is also going to take part in the SCO conference on March 27.

Russia’s humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and the assistance to the Islamic republic's social and economic development are also on the agenda of Sergey Lavrov's visit. Russia delivers food products, medicine, tents and clothes to the country.

Ahead of Lavrov’s visit, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told a Russian news agency that Kabul wants a strong relationship with Russia and considers it to be an ally.

The Russian Foreign Minister has taken part in the opening of an exhibition marking the 90th anniversary of Russia's recognition of Afghanistan.

Lavrov last visited Kabul in February 2007.