SCO foreign ministers discuss consensus approach for peace, stability in Afghanistan
The need for a consensus approach to establish peace in Afghanistan figured in a video conference of foreign ministers of SCO states on Wednesday, with external affairs minister S Jaishankar seeking collective action to root out terrorism that threatens regional peace.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, who convened the meeting, said the US-Taliban agreement had stalled and a settlement in Afghanistan would be possible only if it accommodates the interests of the war-torn country’s closest neighbours.
Most of the discussions during the video conference, also joined by Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, centred round the Covid-19 crisis and the need for coordinated efforts to deal with its trade, economic and social consequences.
During his address, Jaishankar emphasised that security challenges faced by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) states “are not linked by physical or political boundaries”. He added, “Terrorism continues to be the overwhelming threat to security and stability in the SCO region and would require collective action.”
In an apparent reference to Pakistan, he added, “Even as the world fights Covid-19, some are busy spreading other deadly viruses such as terrorism. Fake news and doctored videos are also used to divide communities and countries…”
The world community had seen the prospect of growth evaporate because of the pandemic and this will mean many in India won’t be able to overcome poverty, Jaishankar said. The crisis also disrupted production networks and supply chains and SCO states should identify new ways to sustain economic growth, he said.
Lavrov, in his address to the video conference, said the situation in Afghanistan poses a serious challenge to regional security. The situation, he added, had worsened despite steps taken to push forward the peace process.
“It is obvious that political settlement and putting Afghanistan on the peaceful track is impossible without the participation of the countries in the region,” he said, adding mechanisms such as the Moscow Format and the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group could help provide solutions.
A senior Russian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Russia has always favoured a consensus approach because a solution will have to involve all the countries in the region.” The SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group is better placed to provide solutions and take forward the peace process because it includes key players in the region and Afghanistan itself, the official said.
Lavrov also spoke about the need to strengthen SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS), headquartered in Tashkent, and the need to adapt a roadmap of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, which was framed during a meeting in Bishkek in 2019, to the new environment in Afghanistan, including the US-Taliban negotiations.
Addressing a news briefing after the video conference, Lavrov said a settlement in Afghanistan would only be possible “based on the interests of the Afghan people and the legitimate interests of countries of the region, including the closest neighbours of Afghanistan”.
“The US decided to focus only on their bilateral negotiations with the Taliban. We have nothing against it if it…takes into accounts the interests of all parties and neighbours. It is necessary to more actively involve the neighbours so that they can secure their interests,” he said.
“We are not happy that the US-Taliban deal has been stalling...and we are ready to help the parties to overcome these problems. For this, we need to go back to inclusive dialogue in Afghanistan,” Lavrov added.
The video conference was also joined by the foreign ministers of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The conference also discussed preparations for the SCO foreign ministers’ meeting in Moscow during June 9-10 and the SCO Summit in St Petersburg during July 22-23.
The Russian official cited above said the Covid-19 situation continues to be dynamic and a final decision on whether the upcoming meetings will be held via video conference will be made after an assessment closer to the dates.