MOSCOW - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that Russia will continue to assist Pakistan to bolster its counterterrorism capabilities, and the two countries will also form a commission for military cooperation, *TASS <link>* news agency reported <link>.
"We have confirmed Russia’s readiness to continue boosting Pakistan’s counterterrorism capacity, which is in the entire region’s interests," he said while addressing a press conference with his Pakistani counterpart Khawaja Asif.
Lavrov said fighting terrorism was a priority area of Russia-Pakistan cooperation, but his country also sees other opportunities for bilateral trade and economic cooperation with Pakistan, especially in the energy sector.
Noting that the two countries will form a commission on military cooperation, the foreign minister said Russia and Pakistan will continue to hold the Druzhba (Friendship) joint military exercise.
*We cannot fight others' wars on our soil: Asif*
Foreign Minister Asif while addressing the press conference said the proliferation of militant Islamic State (IS) group terrorists in Afghanistan is a cause of alarm for Pakistan and the IS militants who have relocated themselves from the Middle East to northeastern Afghanistan are a threat for Pakistan, Central Asia and Russia.
He said Pakistan thinks the number of IS terrorists in Afghanistan has surpassed the Taliban groups mentioned on a daily basis by Afghanistan and the US.
"There is absolutely no real acknowledgement by Kabul and Washington of such a large presence or proliferation of Daesh [Arabic acronym for IS] in Afghanistan."
Asif said Pakistan asserts that a negotiated settlement is the only solution to the Afghan conflict, but "the Daesh presence is definitely alarming for us because they are not a party to negotiations in Afghanistan".
Observing that there are "monumental failures" in Afghanistan, he said there was an effort to scapegoat Pakistan and other countries for the shortcomings.
Pakistan has rejected those allegations, Asif said, adding: "We cannot fight others wars' on our soil."
The foreign minister said both Pakistan and Russia have been making efforts to promote peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. He said Pakistan supports the "role played by Russia in developing a regional approach to Afghanistan" and its "commendable" efforts for eliminating IS.
"We remain committed to fighting the menace of terrorism in cooperation with the international community including Russia despite our heavy human and material losses," he said, noting that Pakistan has lost more than 70,000 people in the anti-terrorism fight.
Asif said Pakistan as a matter of principle opposes the imposition of unilateral sanctions against any country including the Russian Federation "especially when these are politically motivated".
According to a Foreign Office (FO) press release, Asif and his Russian counterpart during their consultations expressed satisfaction at the increasing bilateral cooperation between the two countries and agreed to further intensify efforts to deepen cooperation in all areas of mutual interest.
Discussing the situation in Afghanistan, the two foreign ministers agreed that there was no military solution to the conflict in that country.
They agreed to closely coordinate in all Afghanistan-related processes for a regional solution of the Afghan conflict.
The Russian diplomat also "deeply appreciated Pakistan’s efforts and sacrifices in the fight against terrorism", the FO statement said.
*Russia 'very preoccupied' by IS presence in Afghanistan: Lavrov*
Talking about the Afghan conflict, Lavrov said Russia is “very preoccupied” by the increasing presence and influence of IS militants in Afghanistan.
“We are very preoccupied by what is happening in Afghanistan and by the expansion of IS influence.”
According to Lavrov, the presence of IS in the north and east of Afghanistan is “serious” and “already amounts to a thousand people.” Moscow is especially concerned, he said, about the security threat this creates for neighbouring former Soviet republics and to Russia.
“This is right on the borders of our Central Asian neighbours. It increases the risk of terrorists entering Central Asia, from where it's not difficult for them to get to Russia, and further,” Lavrov said.
IS and the Taliban have staged several attacks in Afghanistan in recent weeks, including one on a luxury hotel in Kabul on January 20.
Russia has repeatedly criticised Washington's strategy in Afghanistan, calling on the Taliban to be included in peace negotiations with the Afghan government. - APP /AFP