May 22, 2007

Interview : Igor Ivanov ,Secretary of the Russian Security Council

Interview of Secretary of the Russian Security Council Igor Ivanov with the Russian News & Information Agency RIA Novosti 08:00 22/ 05/ 2007

1. Question: What issues do you discuss with your colleagues from other countries in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)? How are they different from the matters that are normally dealt with by heads of State or defense ministers? Do you have urgent meetings or telephone conversations?

Answer: We deal with the same issues. The only difference is in emphasis. Security Council secretaries concentrate on the national interests and security of each SCO member and the Organization as a whole. Sometimes, we have to make urgent decisions. The current level of communications allows us to stay in close contact with each other.

SCO Security Councils maintain regular official contacts and respect each other's positions. We have effective mechanisms for consultations and concerted action.

This May, we are planning to discuss a broad range of issues at our third meeting, which will be held in Bishkek. We will talk about broader cooperation in building up security in the SCO space; coordinated efforts to counter the threat to peace, stability and security in Asia; actions in the field of information security; and cooperation in fighting illegal trafficking in drugs, psychotropic substances and their precursors. We have been carefully preparing for the upcoming meeting and are convinced that it will help us enhance the security of our states.

2. Question: What threats and challenges are the SCO and its members facing today? What has changed in this field in the past year or two?

Answer: It goes without saying that every country has to face its own challenges to national interests and security. But there are some common threats as well, such as terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking, trade in people, arms smuggling and infectious diseases. All of these are cross border questions and it is very difficult and sometimes impossible to resolve them single-handed. They require concerted efforts.

SCO documents focus on countering three evils - the threat of terrorism, extremism and separatism. I would add one more on this list - illegal drug trafficking, which poses particular danger and funds the first three evils. It is important that the SCO allows us to jointly respond to the situations that prejudice peace, stability and security in the region. By making the SCO's work in this direction more effective we will contribute to countering regional and global challenges in the interests of international stability.

I'm optimistic about SCO prospects. The Organization is turning into an important independent political agency in Asia. It has effective mechanisms for responding to cross border challenges and threats to security by concerted effort, and unique potentialities for mutually beneficial cooperation in trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian spheres.

3. Question: World media keep writing that the SCO is a military alliance or that it will turn into an anti-NATO military alliance. What could you say on this score?

Answer: I would advise adherents of this view to take a closer look at SCO founding documents, such as its Charter, and resolutions of its Council of Heads of State and other leading bodies. All these documents are open to the public. The SCO is a transparent organization. As for the SCO being directed against NATO, it is enough to look at a map of the world to see how strange this allegation is.

SCO members are militarily self-sufficient - they have the military and military-industrial potential for ensuring security. The SCO's goal is to enhance the collective efforts to curtail regional and global negative trends.

We have never considered its transformation into a military alliance. The SCO conducts command-and-staff training exercises to practice counterterrorist actions. Such maneuvers code-named Peaceful Mission-2007 are scheduled for next July and will be held in the Chelyabinsk Region.

4. Question: Since the SCO formation, Afghanistan has been considered by your department a threat to security. But now the SCO and Afghanistan have set up a contact group. What is it working on? What do you think about its prospects?

Answer: The Russian Security Council deals with Afghanistan on a par with other departments. As is commonly known, the situation in Afghanistan is very complicated, unstable and difficult to predict. Its social and economic situation continues to deteriorate. Unfortunately, the persisting problems of terrorism, as well as drug production and trafficking are contributing to this.

Under the circumstances, Afghanistan needs international support. It is important to find ways to resolve the existing problems. I'm certain that the SCO could also play a role in this.

The SCO-Afghanistan contact group is only the first step. We are trying to find other effective instruments of cooperation. I believe today's priority is to create a foundation for economic, scientific and cultural cooperation between the two sides.

5. Question: Four countries received observer status in the SCO in 2004-2005. What could you say about SCO relations with them?

Answer: Interest in the SCO is not limited to the territory of its member countries. But it is necessary to approach its expansion with caution. Integration is a lengthy process, and it would not be sensible to step it up. At this point, the SCO aims not so much at accepting new members as at making its work more productive.

The current four observers are India, Iran, Pakistan and Mongolia. The SCO Secretariat is drafting a program of measures to strengthen economic, humanitarian and other cooperation with observers.

We will carefully consider applications for the SCO full membership. Any international agency has certain rules and conditions of expansion that both the organization and new applicants must observe.

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