Central Asia urges more border help ahead of NATO pull-out
(VIENNA) - With international forces set to pull out of Afghanistan in 2014, central Asian states appealed Monday for more help in securing the region's borders and cracking down on crime and trafficking.
"After ISAF has left Afghanistan, these threats will continue to grow," Tajikistan's Interior Minister Ramazon Rahimov warned UN, EU and central Asian participants at a conference here, highlighting the numbers of weapons and narcotics seized in his country in recent years.
He urged international partners to approach NATO "with a request to strengthen the capacities of the... border forces of central Asian states through the supply of assets and arms" used by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
The European Union, UN development, drugs and migration agencies and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have launched many projects to help reform central Asian border control practices, train staff and provide new equipment.
But participants at the Central Asia Border Security Initiative ministerial conference in Vienna agreed more collaboration and information exchanges were needed.
Regional cooperation is already underway with Kazakhstan saying it was training Kyrgyz, Tajik and Afghan representatives in border management at a military centre.
International bodies meanwhile insisted security measures should not hinder trade and free movement of legal persons.
"Only when borders are both secure and open, there can be prosperity, stability and security," said Rebeca Grynspan, associate administrator of the UN development programme (UNDP).
With few human resources and ageing infrastructure, central Asian states are struggling to cope with a border that was once controlled by the Soviet Union.
Where Soviet forces once patrolled the border by helicopter, guards sometimes have to proceed on foot or by car in an area which might not even have roads, said Jerome Bouyjou of the OSCE's Transnational Threats Department.
In some cases, the border between two countries is not even clearly demarcated.
"There is a certain nervousness in the region about this withdrawal of ISAF forces," he told AFP.
The CABSI conference, hosted by the Austrian government, ends Tuesday.
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