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1 May 200201:20

"RUSSIA AND AFGHAN SETTLEMENT" ARTICLE OF RUSSIAN MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS IGOR IVANOV IN THE NEWSPAPER MOSKOVSKIYE NOVOSTI, NO. 17, 2002

899-30-04-2002

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In Russians' disposition Afghanistan for many reasons occupies a special place. This is not simply yet another state. Our countries are bound by a rich, at times dramatic history, which now too predetermines the character of Russian-Afghan relations in many ways.

Take, for example, the second half of the 20th century. The rapid development of Soviet-Afghan relations in the late 1960s and 1970s made it possible to create in Afghanistan with our assistance about 140 industrial and agricultural projects, many of which can form the backbone of a reviving Afghan economy. Almost 15,000 Afghans received education in the educational institutions of the Soviet Union. In those years there appeared whole legends about most Afghans' special friendly relations with the "shuravi" (Soviet citizens).

Fatal was the decision by the leadership of the USSR in 1979 to directly intervene in Afghanistan's internal political processes. The country in the end found itself plunged into a bloody internecine war, which opened the way for the eventual capture of power in Afghanistan by the Taliban. Their policy turned into the establishment of medieval practices. The production of narcotics got under way in a big way, reaching by 1999 the level of almost 400 tons of heroin per year (75 percent of the world turnover).

Under the auspices of the Taliban and with the direct participation of international extremist forces with bin Laden in the lead a ramified network of camps and centers was deployed on the territory of Afghanistan for the training of thousands of professional terrorists, including from Chechnya. These forces openly proclaimed the slogan of creating a "world caliphate" which was to have forcibly gobbled up dozens of states, including a considerable part of Russian territory.

Therefore the backing by Russia of the Anti-Taliban United Front, and then active participation in the formation of the antiterrorist coalition after the tragedy in the US on September 11 last year was only natural. These steps were dictated by the interests of our national security.

Thanks to the determined collective action it has been possible to a significant extent to neutralize, if not completely destroy, the threat emanating from Afghanistan.

The possibility has opened up for the return of the Afghan people to a normal life, and for the revival of its statehood and national economy. Because the Afghans obviously cannot tackle these tasks on their own, the world community has shown readiness to come to their aid. For on the normalization of the situation in the country the security and prosperity of not only Afghanistan itself, but also regional and international stability depend to a significant extent.

That is why we are paying so serious attention to the revival of political processes in Afghanistan, and the formation there of power structures which would ensure the peaceful development of the country and consistent democratization of the Afghan way of life. Now the order of the day is the convocation of the Loya Jirga, a kind of legislative assembly which must form representative bodies of power of the country for the next 18 months. We are surely far from indifferent to what position the new leadership of Afghanistan will take in the Russian direction. We are interested in stable, friendly relations evolving between our countries that permit developing mutually beneficial cooperation in all fields. Moscow is ready for that. It was to this aim that the visits to Russia of Head of the Afghan Interim Authority Hamid Karzai and other Afghan leaders were devoted.

Already in the first days after the overthrow of the Taliban regime the Russian side gave Afghanistan urgent humanitarian aid, which largely helped to prevent a large-scale humanitarian catastrophe in the region. We are ready in the long term to render practical assistance in restoring the Afghan economy, including with consideration of the fact that many projects were built there with Soviet aid. By agreement with the Afghan leadership, the UN and concerned donor states, we are working up different variants of Russian participation in international economic programs on the basis of multilateral cooperation.

In its actions with regard to Afghanistan Russia is guided by quite specific and pragmatic considerations of a strategic, political and economic character, which, and this is fundamentally important, largely coincide with the real interests of Afghanistan itself.

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