United States of America
Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov’s answers to questions from Rossiya Segodnya news agency
Question: The United States has left Afghanistan. The last remaining American service personnel completed the evacuation of US and other nationals. In your opinion, what does the future hold for the country? What about the recognition of the new Afghan authorities?
Igor Morgulov: First of all, the fact that Ashraf Ghani’s government and he himself fled the country, and the de-facto voluntary surrender of Kabul in mid-August are a logical outcome of efforts made by the United States to impose democracy on Afghanistan over the past 20 years. This has demonstrated yet again that the Afghan society does not accept any attempts to govern or to control their country or chart its development path from the outside.
I think that there is no need to dramatise what is happening in Afghanistan. The new authorities declared the end of hostilities, a total amnesty for government officials and said that they intended to form an inclusive coalition government, respect women’s rights within the framework of the Islamic law, of course, and preserve media freedoms. In addition to this, they declared their intention to rid the country of narcotic drug production, which is also quite significant. We believe that these are positive signals and we are eager to see them materialise.
As for your question on the official recognition, we need to wait until the new government is formed representing all political forces, including ethnic minorities. It is only then that we will determine our position. There is no hurry. We sincerely hope that the parties involved will be able to reach a political consensus and that the new governance framework takes into considerations the interests of all the people in Afghanistan.
Incidentally, we hope that launching an inclusive peaceful intra-Afghan dialogue helps defuse tension in Panjshir Province where national minorities’ leaders, headed by the son of late Ahmad Shah Massoud, have converged. It is essential that the developments there do not slide into a civil war.
As for Russia, we see our role in helping stabilise the situation as quickly as possible, together with other international partners. This is the reason we decided to convene in Kabul another meeting in the extended “troika” format that includes Russia, the United States, China and Pakistan, as soon as it becomes possible. This requires primarily that commercial civilian flights resume at Kabul airport.
Question: What do you think about the security threats emanating from the country?
Igor Morgulov: The terrorist threat lingers in Afghanistan. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the August 26 explosions at Kabul airport, and remains a major destabilising factor in Afghanistan. In the current context, it is unlikely that ISIS fighters lay down their arms and renounce their idea of building a universal caliphate. Fighters from this and other terrorist groups may well attempt to cross into neighbouring countries, including as refugees.
There is still the problem of drug production and trafficking from the territory of Afghanistan. The preceding Afghan government clearly fell short of resolving it. We will see how this goes with the new authorities.
Question: Will the Russian Embassy in Kabul and Russian citizens be evacuated from Afghanistan? Will assistance be provided to Afghan students enrolled at Russian universities who cannot leave Afghanistan? What is being done in this regard?
Igor Morgulov: The Russian Embassy in Afghanistan is operating as normal. We have helped Russian citizens, as well as citizens of the CSTO and CIS countries who have found themselves in a challenging situation to return home. On August 25-26, our Ministry of Defence arranged evacuation flights for some 400 citizens of Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan who asked the Russian Embassy in Kabul for help. The new authorities and the United States, who had control over the Kabul airport at the time, provided the necessary assistance.
We have been looking at the possibility of helping evacuate Afghan students who are enrolled or studying at Russian universities. Our Embassy in Kabul is processing such requests from Afghan citizens.
Question: You have recently visited South Korea. As is known, the process of resolving the problems of the Korean Peninsula has been deadlocked for rather a long time, due to the profound disagreements when it comes to the positions of the key players, namely, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the United States. Persisting quarantine restrictions, making it impossible to maintain in person full-fledged diplomatic contacts, are another reason. Could you share your assessments of meetings on this subject?
Igor Morgulov: Yes, indeed, we have been maintaining contacts with all the key partners mostly by telephone and via diplomatic channels for over 18 months now, due to the current epidemiological restrictions in various countries. Consequently, my visit to Seoul on August 23-25 provided a rare opportunity for an in-depth discussion of the situation on the Korean Peninsula with the South Korean Foreign Ministry’s Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs, Noh Kyu-duk, and US Special Envoy for North Korea Sung Kim, who was also visiting South Korea at that time.
I informed the colleagues about our principled position implying that there is no alternative to a political and diplomatic settlement of the Korean Peninsula’s problems, noted the counterproductive nature of the joint US-ROK military exercise staged on August 16-26, 2021 for the negotiating process’ prospects. At the same time, I supported Washington’s intent to resume direct contacts with the DPRK without any pre-conditions, US statements about the lack of hostility towards Pyongyang and Washington’s readiness to discuss the matter of resuming humanitarian assistance to North Korea.
At the same time, I indicated to our partners that, given the current shortage of trust between North Korea and the United States, it was necessary to back these declarations by specific steps. Exceptions from the international sanctions regime in the humanitarian sphere and in other civilian fields that are, of course, not linked with the nuclear missile programme could help reactivate political dialogue. The need for this is long overdue, considering Pyongyang’s recent measures to scale down regional military tension and the complicated humanitarian situation in the country.
I also suggested resuming the discussion of the 2019 action plan, compiled by Russia and China, regarding the comprehensive settlement of the situation on the Korean Peninsula. The plan includes a package of measures that the parties can approve in a parallel manner and in various formats. These measures deal with four dimensions, namely, military, political, economic and humanitarian.
On the whole, the partners’ response showed that they perceived our logic and our initiatives; this was especially true of the South Korean party. The Republic of Korea obviously wants to invigorate practical cooperation with North Korea; they have their own ideas that they are ready to implement as the epidemiological situation becomes stabilised. Moreover, Seoul reaffirms its intention to resume a detailed assessment of trilateral economic projects involving Russia and both Koreas.
Naturally, this implies projects not banned by sanction resolutions of the UN Security Council. First of all, this includes the trial run of a train via the Trans-Korean Mainline; this train will also in all likelihood linkup with the Trans-Siberian Railway. Additionally, there are plans to deliver Russian coal to South Korea via North Korea under the joint Russian-North Korean transport and logistics project Khasan-Rajin.
On the whole, I perceive the latest contacts as quite useful. I hope that they will continue in the near future.