UNITED NATIONS - The Security Council will hold a ministerial-level debate on the situation in Afghanistan on March 19, Ambassador Vitally Churkin of Russia, which holds the presidency of the UN Security Council for March, announced Monday.

Briefing journalists on the work of the 15-nation Council during the current month, he said that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will chair the debate which will take in account the the developments in Afghanistan as the U.S.-led coalition prepares to withdraw the bulk of its combat troops by next year and transfer security duties to Afghan forces. Churkin said that foreign ministers of some of the Security Council as well those from outside it were expected to take part in the day-long debate at the end of which a resolution extending the mandate of the (UNAMA) will be adopted.

Ambassador Churkin took over the rotating council presidency on March 1 from Kim Sook, the South Korean UN ambassador who held the council presidency for the month of February.

Apart from initiating discussions and debate on Afghanistan, Russia will also turn the 15-member Council’s attention to the situation in Syria and the Middle East.

The Russian Federation is one of the five permanent members on the 15-nation UN body. The other four are China, France, Britain and the United States. The council also has 10 non-permanent members elected to two-year terms.

“The main issue of Russia’s chairmanship will be the situation in Afghanistan,” the ambassador said. The country, he said, was entering an important stage of its development, with presidential elections taking place soon and foreign forces set to leave in 2014.

According to a recent Russian media report, “Russia has good reason to be concerned about the situation in Afghanistan: Since the beginning of hostilities, which pitted Coalition forces against a motley crew of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants, the region has experienced not only an influx of terrorists but also a massive spike in drug trafficking across Europe and Russia.”

The report said 106 tons of illegal drugs – mostly in the form of heroin cultivated from Afghan opium poppy – were seized in Russia last year, a 70 percent jump from 2011.