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Russian Ministry Sees Transit To Afghanistan As Source Of Influence On USA, NATO

U.S. Troops Atop Ridge in Mountainous Area in Afghanistan, Some Looking Across Valley with BinocularsThe transit of American military equipment and personnel to Afghanistan over Russian territory gives Russia "significant influence" on the work of the USA and NATO in this area, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov has said. He also said that he did not believe the USA was establishing a pro-American regime in Afghanistan. He was answering questions in the Russian State Duma about ratification of the Russian-US intergovernmental agreement on military transit to Afghanistan, and his comments were reported by Russian news agencies Interfax and RIA Novosti on 25 February.

"I would not subscribe to the view that the USA is establishing a pro-American regime in Kabul," Ryabkov said, as quoted by Interfax. The current Afghan government has a constructive attitude towards Russia, he added. However, "the situation in the country is evolving, and it is hard to predict at this stage who will be in power in a few years' time," he said.

Ryabkov said it was important that the agreement with the USA on military transit allows close cooperation with the Americans and NATO, and also supports "decent ties" with the Afghan government.

"Preventing the re-Talebanization of Afghanistan is important to us," he said. It is also important to reach the stage when "Afghanistan will be a neutral state; a state from which terrorist and drugs threats do not emanate," he added.

In a separate Interfax report, Ryabkov was quoted as saying: "Sixteen per cent of the USA's military hardware and arms are transited through our country to Afghanistan. According to our information, another 9 per cent gets there through Ukraine, Georgia and countries of the Middle East."

Some 115,000 US military servicemen and over 19,000 t of cargo have already passed through Russian territory in transit to Afghanistan under the Russian-US transit agreement, Ryabkov said, as reported by Interfax (another news agency, RIA Novosti, gave the number of servicemen as 15,000). The agreement came into effect 60 days after it was signed in July 2009, and before its official ratification.

"The agreement allows us to exert a significant influence on the work of the USA and NATO on the given topic," Ryabkov said. "American aircraft have not made a single landing in Russia" since the agreement came into effect, he added.


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