–Pakistani FM praises Russia’s role in establishing peace in region, action taken against feared terror outfit
–Lavrov says Moscow wary of increasing Daesh foothold in Afghanistan as it poses direct threat to Russia, former Soviet republics
MOSCOW: Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif on Tuesday said that Pakistan and Russia shared common concerns regarding “threats posed by the prevailing situation in Afghanistan… [which include] terrorism, exponential increase in drug production, [and] use of drug money for financing terrorism”.
Addressing a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, Asif said that the unchecked and increasing presence of Daesh, or the Islamic State terrorist group, in the region is a cause of concern for Pakistan.
The foreign minister said that the concerns also included security of regional countries, increasing Daesh presence in the region, and the location of the organisation’s camps close to the border with Pakistan and the central Asian states.
“An Afghan-led reconciliation process is the only viable option for lasting peace in Afghanistan,” he added. He also praised Russia’s role in making efforts towards establishing global peace and said it was playing an instrumental role against Daesh.
On the occasion, Asif repeated Pakistan’s stance that it was blamed for foreign forces’ failure to bring peace in Afghanistan and said it had rejected allegations aimed at “scapegoating” Pakistan for the West’s “monumental failure in Afghanistan”. He further added, “Pakistan has faced a lot of damage in the fight against terrorism.”
Commenting on relations with India, the foreign minister said that Pakistan wished to hold talks with India to resolve the Kashmir dispute and other issues.
Addressing reporters, Lavrov said that Russia is “very preoccupied” with the increasing presence and influence of Daesh fighters in Afghanistan.
“We are very preoccupied by what is happening in Afghanistan and by the expansion of Daesh influence,” Lavrov said.
According to Lavrov, the presence of IS in the north and east of Afghanistan is “serious” and “already amounts to a thousand people.” Moscow is especially concerned, he said, about the security threat this creates for neighbouring former Soviet republics and to Russia.
“This is right on the borders of our Central Asian neighbours. It increases the risk of terrorists entering Central Asia, from where it’s not difficult for them to get to Russia, and further,” Lavrov said.
RUSSIA TO HELP PAKISTAN FIGHT TERRORISM:
Commenting on the strengthening relations between Pakistan and Russia, news agency TASS reported that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has iterated his country’s resolve to continue to assist Pakistan to bolster its counterterrorism capabilities. It also said that the two countries will also form a commission for military cooperation.
“We have confirmed Russia’s readiness to continue boosting Pakistan’s counterterrorism capacity, which is in the entire region’s interests,” he said while addressing a press conference with his Pakistani counterpart Khawaja Asif.
Lavrov said fighting terrorism was a priority area of Russia-Pakistan cooperation, but his country also sees other opportunities for bilateral trade and economic cooperation with Pakistan, especially in the energy sector.
Noting that the two countries will form a commission on military cooperation, the foreign minister said Russia and Pakistan will continue to hold the Druzhba (Friendship) joint military exercise.
IS and the Taliban have staged several attacks in Afghanistan in recent weeks, including one on a luxury hotel in Kabul on January 20.
Russia has repeatedly criticised Washington’s strategy in Afghanistan, calling on the Taliban to be included in peace negotiations with the Afghan government.
Asif left for a four-day official visit to Russia on Monday, the Foreign Office said in a statement. Asif was visiting Russia on the invitation of Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, the Foreign Office said.
During the visit, Asif would hold bilateral negotiations with his Russian counterpart. The two ministers would discuss the current state of affairs and prospects for bilateral relations, as well as exchange views on important issues facing the region and the world, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a news briefing.