Russia-Led Security Group Backs Syria Conference Plan

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Russia-Led Security Group Backs Syria Conference Plan
Published 27-05-2013, 10:28
The foreign ministers of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), an intergovernmental military alliance of former Soviet states, has backed a Russian-US initiative to hold an international peace conference for Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday.

Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry announced plans for the conference after talks in Moscow on May 7. Numerous international organizations, including NATO, the United Nations and the European Union have expressed their support for the initiative.

The Syrian government has confirmed its readiness to take part in the conference. Some Syrian opposition groups have also said they are ready to send their representatives, while others insist on President Bashar Assad’s resignation as a precondition for the talks.

Arab experts have warned that Islamist forces coming to power in ‘Arab Spring’ countries could provoke a fresh wave of protests and lead to civil wars.

If Islamists come to power in Syria, it will divide the country, Basma Qodmani, a member of the opposition Syria National Council in 2011-12, told a meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club earlier this month.

At the same meeting, Ahmed Ezz El-Arab, deputy head of Egypt's Wafd Party, criticized the Islamists who have taken dominant positions in that country. Muslim Brothers members who won the presidential election in Egypt "are using religion as a political tool, being patriots of their movement, not of Egypt,” he said.

Syria has been locked in an increasingly bloody civil war since demonstrations broke out against Assad regime in March 2011. According to UN estimates, at least 80,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

Afghanistan

The CSTO also reiterated its commitment to build up its military capability ahead of the withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Afghanistan in 2014.

"Kyrgyzstan…will seek to enhance the CSTO’s authority and standing in the world community and build up the military capability of the CSTO member states in connection with the upcoming reduction of coalition forces in Afghanistan,” Kyrgyzstan’s Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Taalaibek Omuraliyev said on Monday after a meeting of CSTO defense ministers in Bishkek.

Kyrgyzstan holds the CSTO’s rotating presidency this year.

The CSTO defense ministers also signed agreements on furthering cooperation in the defense and technology sector.

Busurmankul Tabaldiyev, secretary of Kyrgyzstan’s Defense Council, said ISAF’s withdrawal will require additional security measures in the region, while Afghanistan also needs focused assistance to help it deal with its socio-economic issues to ensure stability.

On Thursday Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, said it expects influence of the radical Islamist Taliban to grow in Afghanistan after international coalition forces are pulled out. Lt. Gen. Igor Sergun said the situation in Afghanistan poses a "serious challenge to international stability” and the ISAF withdrawal in 2014 could also increase the threat of terrorism and religious extremism.

The situation could get even worse if those militants resume cooperation with al-Qaeda and use force to establish "a global caliphate” from Morocco to Malaysia, he said.

Sergun’s remarks echo those of CSTO General Secretary Nikolai Bordyuzha, who has warned that the situation near Russia’s southern borders will worsen after the ISAF withdrawal. A zone of instability will emerge in regions bordering Afghanistan, and the influence of extremist groups will grow, as will the penetration of Islamist fundamentalist ideas in neighboring states, Bordyuzha said.

Russia is considering deploying border guards on the Tajik-Afghan border, Moscow's envoy to Kabul, Andrei Avetisyan, told Reuters two weeks ago, adding such a move would have to be agreed upon with Tajikistan.

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