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1 Mar, 2013 10:52

Afghanistan tops Russia's Security Council presidency agenda

Afghanistan tops Russia's Security Council presidency agenda

Russia on Friday assumed the rotational presidency of the UN Security Council at a time of heightened concern over developments in Afghanistan, Syria and in the Middle East.

In its leadership role on the Security Council, Russia will initiate discussion and debate on the situation in Afghanistan, where US-led international forces have fought a committed adversary since shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

“The main issue of Russia’s chairmanship will be the situation in Afghanistan,” the ministry report emphasized. “This country is entering a very responsible stage of its development, which requires new efforts from the people of Afghanistan and consolidated support from the entire international community, with the UN playing an unconditional central coordinating role.”

Russia has good reason to be concerned about the situation in Afghanistan: Since the beginning of hostilities, which pitted Coalition forces against a motley crew of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants, the region has experienced not only an influx of terrorists but also a massive spike in drug trafficking across Europe and Russia.

According to the Federal Drug Service, 106 tons of illegal drugs – mostly in the form of heroin cultivated from Afghan opium poppy – were seized in Russia last year, a 70 percent jump from 2011.

In light of the obvious failures of attempting to fundamentally change Afghanistan through military power alone, the US is planning to bring home an estimated 34,000 American troops of the 66,000 now serving in Afghanistan. In August, President Putin warned that Washington may be pulling out of the country before their mission is completed.

"It is regrettable that many participants in this operation are thinking about how to pull out of there," the Russian leader said. "They took up this burden and should carry it to the end."

The UN Security Council is scheduled to meet on March 19 to address the situation and “adopt a resolution extending the mandate of the UN mission to assist Afghanistan," the report said. The meeting will be chaired by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Meanwhile, Syria’s two-year political crisis, in which forces loyal to President Bashar Assad are engaged in a war against a determined rebel opposition, will continue to be a subject of debate for the Security Council.

Vitaly Churkin, Russia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, will chair the UN Security Council meeting on Friday. Churkin summarized Russia’s position on the Syrian crisis: “[The] violence must stop… dialogue must be established without precondition.”

The Russian ambassador to the UN emphasized that both sides of the conflict should commit themselves to the “Geneva document of June 2012, which, we believe, should serve as the consensus basis for dialogue,” and said that “we can’t resolve that crisis for [the Syrian people].”

During its month-long presidency of the Security Council, Russia will also focus attention on the Middle East crisis in an effort to assist the Quartet on the Middle East – composed of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia – to achieve a “comprehensive regional settlement," the ministry report said.

The UN Charter states that the Security Council presidency rotates on a monthly basis according to the alphabetical order of the member-states' official UN names. The Security Council presidency involves “setting the agenda, presiding at its meetings, and overseeing any crisis” that may arise.