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Lavrov Demands Clarity on G20 Agenda on Afghanistan

Aug. 28, 2021 (EIRNS)—Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was in Rome yesterday, where he met Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio to discuss the extraordinary G20 meeting on Afghanistan which Italy is organizing as current G20 chair.

After the talk with Draghi, which lasted 45 minutes, Lavrov told journalists: “In light of Italy’s G20 presidency, we covered in detail the functioning of that association, which reflects modern multipolar realities more adequately than smaller gatherings.” However, Moscow is cautious on the initiative. In response to a question, Lavrov said:

“We discussed preparations for the G20 today with Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Luigi Di Maio. We would like to understand how our Italian friends see the G20’s role. What ‘added value’ they expect to see from engaging this mechanism. We were promised a concept paper that will clarify this matter.

“Luigi Di Maio mentioned it was necessary to follow the five principles that he set out earlier. Fighting terrorism ranks fifth here.... Our priorities will be slightly different. What matters to us is to ensure the security of our allies on Russia’s southern borders who have direct and open borders with Afghanistan.”

In any case, Di Maio “highlighted the need for an inclusive format,” Lavrov continued. “I have mentioned five non-G20 Central Asian countries. Pakistan and Iran are not included, either, and without them, this discussion will not be complete. Our colleagues promised to think about how to come up with useful formats,” Lavrov said, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

In his opening remarks to media, Lavrov also stressed with respect to U.S.-NATO Afghan withdrawal: “Still, we need to learn the lessons of Iraq, Libya, and now Afghanistan. The attempts to impose one’s value system on someone else are highly explosive. I hope that three times is enough to get this conclusion firmly set in the minds of the politicians who are considering further actions in other countries.”

Lavrov repeated his criticism of the G20 agenda at the press conference after the meeting with Di Maio. According to senior journalist Franco Bechis, it looked like the two foreign ministers were holding two different press conferences. Whereas Di Maio was focused on Afghanistan, presenting the Italian draft agenda for the G20 (“protection of the civilian population, concrete protection of human rights, guarantee of humanitarian access, fight against terrorism, management of migration flows”), and even raised the Navalny issue, Lavrov spoke at length about economic cooperation and tourism.

Not least, is the fact that as one journalist raised in a question “citizens of San Marino, who were mostly vaccinated with the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, can safely and freely enter Italy. At the same time, Russian citizens who were vaccinated with the same vaccine cannot do so. Don’t you see this as a policy of double standards?” Lavrov replied,

“I asked Luigi Di Maio what makes the citizens of San Marino privileged as compared with Russians when both have been vaccinated with the same vaccine. We hope that as soon as the issue of mutual recognition of the vaccines is settled, tourism will resume. Direct flights to Italy resumed on June 28. Italians arriving on these flights in Russia are completely free to be in our country in accordance with their itinerary.”

Asked by journalists, Lavrov made it clear that Italy’s mediation is welcome but not indispensable, according to Bechis.

(On Aug. 24, Undersecretary of State to the Foreign Ministry Benedetto Della Vedova had spoken at the UN Council on Human Rights calling for a monitoring mechanism on human, media, women and LGBTI rights in Afghanistan.)

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