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Russia, Afghanistan to boost cooperation on drug and terror fronts

Russia, Afghanistan to boost cooperation on drug and terror fronts
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, just days after gaining observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), welcomed more cooperation between Moscow and Kabul in the battles against terrorism and drug production.

­"The Afghan president has a complete understanding of how these threats are affecting our neighbors in Central Asia, and through them, the Russian Federation too, so in the interests of our own country and for the sake of regional stability we have agreed to cooperate more closely on the anti-terrorist and anti-drug field," Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters on Thursday following talks with Karzai in Kabul, the site of a conference on Afghanistan.

Lavrov stressed the significance of Afghanistan being granted observer status inside of the SCO as a means for facilitating the agenda.

"This will be facilitated by the recent granting of an observer status to Afghanistan by   the SCO, which operates a regional anti-terrorist structure and has…a plan of action on combating drug production and drug trafficking," the Russian minister said.

The regional conference on Afghanistan held in Kabul on Thursday, which was replete with concrete initiatives, was “quite successful,” Lavrov said.

The declaration adopted by conference participants includes a clause to establish seven working groups to promote confidence-building measures and cooperation in various areas, including drug production and trafficking, terrorism, cooperation in natural disaster response and cleanup, the minister added.

The document also contained statements regarding cooperation on the economic and humanitarian fronts, said Lavrov, who underlined the importance of the initiatives occurring within the framework of regional organizations.

"It is fundamentally important that the decisions of the Kabul conference to set up these working mechanisms are not detached from the cooperation organizations existing here,” stressed Lavrov.  “The declaration states that these mechanisms will operate in close contact with regional organizations such as the SCO, the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) and other mechanisms operating here."

Lavrov’s comments may be interpreted as an effort on the part of Russia to balance the presence of Coalition Forces, which is scheduled to pull its international troops out of the country in 2014.

"We think this is an absolutely appropriate approach. There is no need to create something new here, the region has a fairly widespread network of organizations which are in charge of various areas of cooperation between the regional states," the minister added.

Access to these organizations is also open to extra-regional players; they only need to cooperate on the basis of decisions made by the regional countries, Lavrov noted.

Russia is increasingly frustrated with various aspects of the Coalition Forces’ efforts in Afghanistan, including the war on opium, which has exploded in production following the removal of the Taliban.

Meanwhile, Russia’s explosive Caucasus region remains a magnet for Al-Qaeda sponsored terrorism. Now with Afghanistan aboard the CSO, Moscow sees an opportunity to exert more influence over events in the region.

Robert Bridge, RT