NATO and UNODC launch counter-narcotics training in Central Asia
NATO and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) announced the launch of a new NATO counter-narcotics training project at a conference in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan in May 2015. The project involves five Central Asian states -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan -- as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan. It follows up on a similar initiative developed under the umbrella of the NATO-Russia Council which was suspended in the wake of Russian aggressive action in Ukraine.
NATO and UNODC continue to work closely with the beneficiary countries in order to tailor the courses to the needs of their counter-narcotics personnel. NATO’s commitment to this project serves as another example of its dedication to engaging with this vital region and determining how best to shape its support and meet specific and pressing security necessities, particularly post-ISAF.
On 4 and 5 May, Ashgabat also hosted the 9th review meeting of the signatory parties of the Memorandum of Understanding on Sub-Regional Drug Control Cooperation, signed in 1996 by Central Asian states, Azerbaijan, Russia and the Aga Khan Development Network. The event brought together ministers of foreign affairs, heads of drug control agencies, senior representatives from justice and health ministries, as well as representatives of international organisations. The Alliance was represented by the NATO Liaison Officer in Central Asia, Alexander Vinnikov. Discussions highlighted persistent challenges posed by the production and trafficking of illegal drugs and sought to reinvigorate dialogue and cooperation among the signatory parties in combating these threats.
Alexander Vinnikov also discussed peace and stability issues during bilateral meetings with senior Turkmen government officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence. They discussed the scope of Turkmenistan’s next Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme with the Alliance, including the country’s interest in strengthening scientific cooperation in the framework of NATO’s Science for Peace and Security programme, as well as new initiatives in the areas of civil emergency planning and public diplomacy.
Continuing his series of public diplomacy lectures in Ashgabat, Mr Vinnikov delivered a presentation on NATO’s engagement with Central Asia and Afghanistan post-2014 at Turkmenistan’s newest university, the International University for the Humanities and Development. It is the country’s first higher educational institution to deliver all its teaching in English. An interactive Q&A session involving a majority of the university’s students and faculty followed the presentation.