UNITED NATIONS - Russia, which on Friday assumed the rotational Presidency of the UN Security Council for March, will focus on Afghanistan as the US-led coalition prepares to withdraw the bulk of its combat troops by next year and transfer security duties to Afghan forces.
Vitaly Churkin, the permanent representative of Russia to the United Nations, took over the rotating council Presidency from Kim Sook, the South Korean UN Ambassador who held the council Presidency for the month of February.
Churkin is expected to brief the Press here on Monday on the work programme of the most powerful UN body this month.
But reports from Moscow indicate that apart from initiating discussions and debate on Afghanistan, Russia will also turn the 15-member Council’s attention to the situation in Syria and the Middle East.
The Russian Federation is one of the five permanent members on the 15-nation UN body. The other four are China, France, Britain and the United States. The Council also has 10 non-permanent members elected to two-year terms.
“The main issue of Russia’s chairmanship will be the situation in Afghanistan,” the Russian Foreign Ministry statement emphasised. “This country is entering a very responsible stage of its development, which requires new efforts from the people of Afghanistan and consolidated support from the entire international community, with the UN playing an unconditional central coordinating role.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will chair on March 19th a UN Security Council meeting on Afghanistan.
A resolution extending the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) will be adopted at the meeting.
According to a Russian media report, “Russia has good reason to be concerned about the situation in Afghanistan: since the beginning of hostilities, which pitted Coalition forces against a motley crew of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants, the region has experienced not only an influx of terrorists but also a massive spike in drug trafficking across Europe and Russia.”
The report said 106 tons of illegal drugs – mostly in the form of heroin cultivated from Afghan opium poppy – were seized in Russia last year, a 70 percent jump from 2011.
Meanwhile, Syria’s two-year political crisis, in which forces loyal to President Bashar Assad are engaged in a war against a determined rebel Opposition, will continue to be a subject of debate for the Security Council.