NATO foreign ministers urge Russia, Iran to support peace process in Afghanistan

Sputnik – Earlier in the day, foreign ministers of NATO states on Friday held a meeting in Brussels to discuss the situation in the Middle East, cooperation with the EU and relations with Russia. They also urged Iran and Russia to contribute to the peace process in Afghanistan.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that he had discussed Russia with new US State Secretary Mike Pompeo on Friday.

“We had a time for a short bilateral meeting this morning that was very good and very useful. We addressed both the preparations for the upcoming summit in July, we addressed Russia, deterrence and defense,” Stoltenberg said at a briefing.

NATO has been boosting its military presence in Europe, particularly in Eastern European states, since the outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis, citing Russia’s alleged interference in that conflict as a justification for the move.

Moscow has repeatedly denied allegations of its involvement in the Ukrainian conflict, while Russian authorities repeatedly said that NATO actions at the Russian border had destabilizing character.

Call for Peace in Afghanistan

“We echo President [Ashraf] Ghani’s call on regional actors to cooperate more closely on fighting terrorism and to support the Afghan government’s peace and reconciliation efforts. In this regard, we also encourage Iran and Russia to contribute to regional stability by fully supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process,” the ministerial summit’s final statement read.

The alliance also urged the Taliban movement to accept the Afghan president’s proposal, who offered in February to hold peace talks with the insurgents.

“We urge the Taliban to respond favorably to this opportunity and participate in an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process. The responsibility to bring an end to a long era of conflict is now in the Taliban’s hands,” the statement said.

According to the statement, NATO pledged to continue providing support to the Afghan government to help it ensure the country’s security.

Afghanistan has been experiencing significant political, social and security instability for decades, as various terrorist organizations continue to stage attacks against civilian and military targets. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces supported by the NATO-led units have been conducting joint operations to combat terrorism across the country.

Mission in Iraq

“We also made progress in our preparations to launch a new training mission in Iraq at the Summit in July… Today we agreed on the concept of operations for our mission. This will include several hundred personnel. They will train Iraqi instructors, and develop Iraqi military schools,” Stoltenberg said, as quoted by the NATO press service.

The NATO chief added that the mission aimed at assisting Baghdad in counterterrorism efforts, stabilization of Iraq and prevention of re-emergence of the Daesh*.

Iraq has been in a state of instability since the 2003 invasion of the US-led coalition that overthrew then-President Saddam Hussein. Since then, NATO has held a number of training missions in Iraq to increase the professionalism of Iraqi forces.