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October 5, 2012

Drone attacks breach of Pak sovereignty: Russia

October 5, 2012

ISLAMABAD: An agreement emerged between Russia and Pakistan on Thursday that the US-led drone attacks are illegal and breached the sovereignty of Pakistan while the visiting Russian foreign minister said serious rescheduling problems had led to the cancellation of President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Islamabad.
Pakistan and Russia saw bilateral relations off to a good start with both sides agreeing on important issues and holding out assurances that the future will see a further strengthening of relations both at the civil and military levels. Both sides appeared eager to put the past behind them and accept the realities in the region where both are important players.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who arrived here on Wednesday at only “two days notice”, took an extra step forward to reach out to Pakistan when he cancelled a planned visit to India to reach here.
Pakistan appeared pacified after the initial cancellation of President Putin’s visit which it believed were because of genuine ‘scheduling problems’ for Putin. Lavrov last visited Pakistan in 2006.
When asked what kind of a message Moscow was sending to Pakistan through the cancelled presidential visit, Lavrov said there were seriousrescheduling problems. “President Putin sent a message to President Zardari that his visit could not take place because of ‘scheduling’ problems and we hope that the two presidents can meet at the next presidential summit very soon,” Lavrov told a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar after delegation-level talks at the Foreign Office.
As another question was raised on the same issue asking if the Russians realised how they had hurt Pakistani feelings with this cancellation, Lavrov reiterated that there were rescheduling problems.
Stepping in, Khar bailed him out by offering that Pakistan was ready to believe what Lavrov was saying. “We will take them for what they are saying that there were scheduling

problems. One visit alone does not show the strength of strong relations. The foreign minister came here on two days notice and we continue to look [at the future] positively,” she said.
Both sides in their opening statements acknowledged that there was convergence of views on most issues of importance like at the regional and international levels, including the situation in Afghanistan, Syria and Libya and the Iranian nuclear programme.
“I am satisfied with the substance of our talks. The continuation of contacts and the intensity of our meetings are good at the regional and global level. We will continue to maintain relations to fight terrorism. Our talks were fruitful and the inter-governmental commission is an important mechanism. We exchanged views on Afghanistan, Syria, Middle East, Iran and Africa. We have a convergence of views on these issues,” Lavorv admitted.
Khar too appeared upbeat and said there was a consensus between the two sides on further strengthening and improving relations under the guidelines of parliament, which had outlined such a policy.
“We have clearly intensified our interaction at the level of the president, prime minister, ministers and the defence forces. Besides the inter-governmental commission offers excellent opportunities and the next few months will see more MOUs being signed. We also agreed that the two presidents would meet shortly. We want to see projects contributed by Russia in the 20th century to see the 21st century,” she added.
Khar spoke as Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was in Moscow, making him Pakistan’s first top general to visit Russia.Afghanistan was another area where both sides agreed that the solution to the crisis there should come from the people of Afghanistan themselves.
“On Afghanistan we feel answers should come from within the country and the region,” said Lavrov, adding that all proposals “should come from the territory of Afghanistan and foreign partners should only encourage these proposals” as “lots of remedies were imposed from outside but none of them worked in Afghanistan.”
Even on the issue of Kashmir, Lavrov sidestepped a direct response by saying that both Pakistan and India enjoyed mature diplomacy and were capable of ensuring that they could tackle all contentious issues without outside help. “We discussed and welcomed confidence building measures between Pakistan and India. They do not need mediation from outside as they are capable,” he said.
Both foreign ministers also agreed that the US-led drone attacks were illegal and breached the sovereignty of Pakistan.
When asked to comment on the Imran Khan-led peace march to Waziristan to protest these attacks, Khar said the issue of security to the participants could not be ignored. She, however, dispelled the idea that Pakistan was engaged in simple ‘rhetoric’ as far as condemning the drone attacks. She insisted that what she said in public was not different from her stand behind closed doors with the United States.
“If the objective of drone strikes is to end terrorism, then Pakistan ascribes to that objective. However, the ways and means that we use to achieve those objectives must be legal, lawful and not counterproductive,” she said. The drone strikes are “illegal, unlawful and counterproductive”, she added.
The world community has to work according to the UN Charter and find legal ways of handling counterterrorism efforts, Khar said. “Drone strikes are against Pakistan’s sovereignty and we have to make sure that our eyes are on winning the war and not only the battle,” she said, adding that killing of one or two terrorists at the cost of civilian casualties and collateral damage would help win a battle but “we will certainly lose the war.”
Lavrov stepped in to add that Russia was clearly against these drone attacks as well. “It is not acceptable to violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of any state and this approach has been voiced by our colleague and we fully support it,” he said.
To a question by a Russian journalist regarding Syria, Lavrov said: “We have great concern over what is happening in Syria where the situation is deteriorating. We condemn this violation of sovereignty. Such acts are not being condemned at the Security Council, at the UN, which normally condemns terrorist attacks. Western countries bypass these acts.”
For now, Lavrov said, Russia was supportive of President Zardari’s initiative on the regional conference to fight drugs likely to be held next month.

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