US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder are discussing the situation in Afghanistan with representatives of 60 other countries at the international conference in Berlin.
Two issues are on the conference focus: the money Afghan authorities need for stabilizing the situation in the country, and drugs produced in Afghanistan and “exported” worldwide. The formal agenda was bigger and included the critical issue of providing security in the country being torn by military conflicts.
President of Afghanistan Khamid Karsai told about his 7-year plan of stabilizing situation in Afghanistan, but emphasized that implementing the plan requires $27 billion. According to Karsai, Afghanistan will stop being a troublesome country for international community provided that the international sponsors fund this plan.
Today Afghan authorities have no sufficient funds for everyday needs. Afghanistan was promised $$.2 billion in foreign aid, but received much smaller amount of money, $67 per every Afghan person.
German Economic Cooperation and Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said that the conference could end up with the promise of granting $9 billion in the three years to come international aid to Afghanistan. The USA are expected to add $1.2 more billion to $1 billon the States already gave to Afghanistan.
”We are not convinced that the terrorist bases in Afghanistan were liquidated and the situation on the Southern borders of Russia is stable”, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the conference.
According to Mr. Lavrov, one of the problems for Russia is the growing traffic of drugs from Afghanistan. One can understand his concerns: Taliban had prohibited growing opium poppy in the country, but after the defeat of Taliban Afghanistan became the world leader on producing opium and heroin. Experts estimate that 1.7 million of Afghan peasants are engaged in growing opium poppy, and this business provides half of the country GDP. Drugs are brought to other countries, first to the neighbors of Afghanistan in Central Asia and then – to Russia.
Afghan authorities agree that there is a pressing need to fight drugs in this country. However, they say that police actions can produce little result until poppy is replaced by crops and vegetables. This again “requests money”.
Participation of Russia in the conference has special meaning: Afghanistan owes our country $2 billion. The issue of this debt is to be discussed in Berlin as well, but mainly at the first meeting between Colin Powell and Sergey Lavrov. The issues of the relations between Russia and the USA, US military presence in the area bordering Afghanistan the issue of “following the obligations on military restraint by NATO members” will be on the meeting agenda.
According to Mr. Lavrov, the dialog between Russia and the USA is improving. “We have common outlook for the strategic goals in the spheres of security and stability. The fact that the methods of implementing these goals are different, is natural in the relations between partners”.
Russian Foreign Minister scheduled meetings with German Chancellor and Chinese Foreign Minister.