MOSCOW, October 20 (RIA Novosti) - The European Council approved Afghanistan's signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States on Monday and reassured its willingness to establish long-term cooperation with the country.
"The Council welcomes the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States of America and the Status of Forces Agreement with NATO. These agreements provide the basis for the continued international military presence to support the Afghan National Security Forces in providing security in Afghanistan," the EU said in the Conclusions on Afghanistan released after the Foreign Affairs Council meeting.
The security agreement between Afghanistan and the United States was signed on September 30, setting forth that the United States would reduce its military presence up to 9,800 by 2015 and finally withdraw by the end of 2016. The agreement with NATO allows some 2,000 NATO troops stay in the country "until the end of 2024 and beyond."
"The EU restates its willingness to finalize the Cooperation Agreement for Partnership and Development. This can provide the basis for a wide-ranging long-term partnership between the EU and Afghanistan," the Council added.
The aim of the Europe's Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Afghanistan is to strengthen the country's democracy and economy by establishing cooperation in a wide range of spheres.
With a view to this, earlier in October the European Commission announced renewed funding of 1.4 billion euros ($1.8 billion) to Afghanistan for the period 2014-2020 to support social stability, agriculture and health protection, and to strengthen democracy.
The EU has also welcomed the formation of a Government of National Unity in Afghanistan and stressed the need for credible and transparent parliamentary elections next year.
The power-sharing deal between the political rivals - former finance minister Ashraf Ghani and former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah – to form a new unity government was signed on September 21, breaking months of political deadlock following the runoff in June and allegations of massive fraud on both sides. The deal put Ghani in the president's office and made Abdullah Abdullah a "chief executive officer" (CEO) with powers similar to those of prime minister.
Currently about 41,000 NATO troops remain in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban insurgency alongside Afghan soldiers and police, with the term of NATO's combat mission ending in December.