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BRUSSELS, October 23. (Itar-Tass) – Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that NATO-Russia Council participants were concerned with the unraveling situation in Afghanistan and adjacent territories. “The decision to withdraw international security forces from the country has triggered terrorist cells to increase activity. The number of armed opposition in Afghanistan’s Northern provinces, adjacent to our CSTO partners, is increasing,” he told journalists after the Council meeting.
The official said that Russia proposed to make the Afghanistan agenda one of the priorities for the NATO-Russia Council in 2014. According to the Minister, much work is to be done in this regard next year, such as the international conference dedicated to security issues, which is traditionally hosted Moscow by Russia’s Defense Ministry. The official noted that he was satisfied with meetings held during the Council session: “I’ve managed to not only get acquainted with new colleagues, but to also discuss burning issues pertaining to security and, what’s more important, outline future plans.”
Shoigu noted that the Council session was “an important part of collaboration to make the Europe-Atlantic region a safer place. I’m sure that honest dialog is the way to mutual understanding and constructive partnership when it comes to maintaining peace and strategic stability.”
“We have certainly invited our colleagues to attend a conference, which is now becoming regular, in May. We are going to hold it annually,” Shoigu said.
An international security conference is a vital floor for discussing urgent international security problems.
“There are plenty of issues for discussion. Regrettably, their number has been expanding rather than dwindling,” Shoigu emphasized.
“We are paying great attention to this conference, and we hope that our colleagues will act accordingly,” Shoigu concluded.
The Russian defence minister has hosted two international security conferences in Moscow - in May 2012 and in May 2013. Anti-missile defence used to dominate their agenda. The theme of the 2014 international security conference will be declared later.
The Russian defence minister and the U.S. secretary of defense agreed to hold regular videoconferences to discuss topical problems of security, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said after a meeting with Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu.
No progress has been achieved in the NATO-Russia work in missile defence, Russian Defence Minister said.
He noted that, “it’s obvious that missile defence was raised at the session. No progress has been achieved. Missile defence programmes develop in Europe and our concerns are taken into account.”
Russia favours “mutually advantageous cooperation in missile defence, which facilitates the strengthening of security of every state”, he said.
“However, before to start common missile defence projects, firm guarantees are needed under which the U.S. missile defence will not be used against Russian nuclear deterrence forces,” Shoigu said, adding, “We lack predictability towards American and NATO missile defence plans.”
Shoigu expressed hopes the NATO-Russia project on eliminating outdated ammunition in the Kaliningrad region would be implemented in 2014, saying: “We seek to implement this project and we’ll contribute to the work of specialists.”
“Russia praises cooperation within the NATO-Russia Council this year,” the Russian minister said, adding, “Now the work on the 2014 plan is being completed. We intend to conduct events, which will facilitate the strengthening of trusting between Russia and the Alliance countries.”
“We continue cooperation in fighting terrorism and piracy, and in military medicine and combat service support,” Shoigu said.
Russia's army reform
Russia's Defence said the reform of the Russian Armed Forces was the reaction to new threats and challenges and not “the show of muscle”.
“We told our colleagues about the reform of the Russian Armed Forces. We stressed that it was necessary to work hard in order to form a modern and combat-capable army, equipped with up-to-date weapons,” he noted.
Making up of professional officers and soldiers is one of the priorities of the Russian army reform, the Russian minister said.
This year Russia “has taken unprecedented transparent measures in the military field”. “We informed our colleagues about the tasks and goals of the Russian-Belarusian exercise Zapad 2013. It was done in advance and not upon completion of the exercise,” Shoigu said.
Syria’s example proves the consequences when chemical weapons fall into the hands of terrorists, the Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu stressed.
“Unfortunately, Syria’s example proves what happens if chemical weapons fall into the hands of terrorists,” he reminded.
“Today international terrorism poses the main threat to peace and stability. The fact that WMD components fall into the hands of extremists poses a more threat,” the Russian minister said.
“The linking between terrorism and the WMD arouses more concern that is why we urge our partners to join actions aimed at fighting this threat posed to global peace and security,” Shoigu said.
The session also focused on the situation in Syria. Russia’s position remains unchanged: the inter-Syrian conflict should be resolved by political means. “The key task is to implement U.N. Security Resolution · 2118,” the minister said, adding, “It is important that the demands chemical weapons and their component be eliminated are related to the government and the opposition. Chemical weapons should be confiscated and neutralised.”
Russia is ready to discuss the participation in a programme for eliminating chemical weapons in Syria if the U.N. requests this, Shoigu said.
“The issues of Syria and Afghanistan have been discussed at the meetings with the defence ministers of the U.S., Britain and Italy. It’s rather difficult to prefer anything. We discussed Russia’s participation in the programme. If the U.N. requests for this, the Russian Federation will debate such opportunity,” the Russian Minister said.
He said Russian partners in NATO had put forth a proposal to train Afghan field engineers, who would demine Afghanistan’s territory.
Italy expressed willingness to prepare a draft document, Shoigu said.
Minister Sergei Shoigu met with NATO Secretary-General, and the defence ministers of the U.S., Britain and Italy on the sidelines of the Russia-NATO Council.
At the meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defence Chuck Hague, Shoigu said, “We have issues to discuss. We’ve met with you recently. Many significant events related to Syria and regional security happened.”
Commenting on the situation in Afghanistan in light of the upcoming withdrawal of coalition troops in 2014, the Russian minister said, “This arouses our concern. I’m ready to share our impressions and hear your view on this issue.”
At the meeting with British Secretary of State for Defence Philip Hammond, Shoigu said the contacts between the two countries “are regular. Of course, we rivet much attention to personal meetings when we have an opportunity to synchronise positions on key international security issues and bilateral military cooperation”.
During the meeting with Italian Defence Minister Mario Mauro, the Russian minister said, “Relations between Russia and Italy are warm and promising.”
Shoigu said he would like to discuss the situation in the Middle East, North Africa and bilateral military cooperation.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in recent times cooperation between the Alliance and Russia had promoted in the fight against terrorism and transport security. He expressed condolences to the victims of the terrorist act in Volgograd.