By SIFISO DLAMINI | 2023-01-25
The Russian Federation Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, jetted into the country for bilateral talks after visiting from South Africa.
The minister was accompanied by a delegation of over 20 people, which included journalists and dignitaries.
Minister Lavrov’s visit followed that of the Russian Federation Ambassador in Eswatini Alexander Surikov, who had a press conference with local media held at the Hilton Garden Inn last week.
Surikov indicated that the Russian government was interested in exploring investment opportunities in the country as well as clarified that Russia did not train local army personnel, but instead offered military science education.
He also urged Emaswati to refrain from using violence to resolve differences but instead to engage in a peaceful dialogue.
Minister Lavrov paid a courtesy call to Prime Minister, Cleopas Dlamini, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Thulisile Dladla, Ministry of Defence Principal Secretary, Prince Sicalo and Army Commander Lieutenant General, Mashikilisane Fakudze.
This was followed by the signing of the agreement on visa-free travel for holders of service passports.
Following the signing of the waiver agreement, Emaswati studying and travelling to Russia will no longer need a visa.
This will come as good news for about 50 Emaswati currently pursuing their education in various fields in Russia’s institutions.
The agreement was officially signed by Lavrov and Dladla in Cabinet yesterday.
Lavrov acknowledged that this was his first visit in the country since the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two States in 1999.
He said since that period, regular contacts had been established, not only between the ministers of foreign affairs but in various sectors including agriculture, trade industry and specialised agencies.
The minister said they had fruitful engagements with the prime minister, Minister Dladla, acting Minister of Agriculture Harries Bulunga, Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Moses Vilakati, as well as the Minister of Commerce Industry and Trade, Manqoba Khumalo.
“Our talks were rich in content and it was a beautiful opportunity for all of us to improve relations for the benefit of our peoples and also to find specific areas to advance our cooperation more,” he said.
Lavrov said the productive work was underpinned by the principal of bilateral respect, equality of States and respect for the interests of each other.
He said during their engagements, they also agreed on the need to focus efforts on the economic spectrum to boost relations and catch up on other factors in order to catch up with other sectors with the beautiful collaborations between the two nations.
The minister further stated that they also identified possible areas of cooperation, which include agriculture, energy and mining and the use of Russia’s grain to be supplied and grown in Eswatini as well as information and communication technologies.
He also stated that he was not surprised by efforts of western states to influence African countries, particularly the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) not to trade with Russia.
According to Lavrov, in July 2022, a similar strategy was adopted with the Arabic countries where they were influenced and persuaded against trading with or having relations with the Russian Federation.
He said this was unprecedented in diplomatic practice and if they were following diplomatic principles, they would let each country decide what they wanted to do.
“These countries are grown-ups and not school children.
It was not necessary to try to teach them good manners according to the western standards and values,” he said.
Adding the minister said as a federation, they appreciated and respected the position from their partners who in situations like these, were not moved by the orders from former colonial powers. “I believe that if you are a pioneer of democracy, you respect democracy and international relations as well and the United Nations Charter, which says the UN is based on sovereign equality of states,” said Lavrov.
Minister Dladla, who welcomed the Russian dignitaries, said their visit served to cement the growing relationship between the two countries, governments and people.
“I would also want to express my personal appreciation at being able to host you, welcome to Eswatini.”
Dladla acknowledged that the two countries have had a number of interactions facilitated through the Russian Federation Embassy in Maputo, Mozambique.
She said the visit was testimony to the hard work and efforts thatthe Russian Federation representative’s office had put in.
“It is an affirmation of the long history of cordiality between the Kingdom of Eswatini and the Russian Federation,” she said.
Dladla said friends do need to make real time contact to ensure long term projections of common permanent interest.
“I am keen to see our bilateral agenda grow in many positive aspects and in ways that will have a favourable impact in the lives of our people, locally and abroad,” she said.
Minister Dladla added that the visa waiver agreement was a step in the right direction as it set the tone for the movement of people between the two countries.
She remained optimistic that this would bring both nations closer and could be an opportunity to propose a bilateral cooperation arrangement that sought to find commonalities in many spheres of interest.
In addition to the visa waiver agreement, the minister said she was hopeful of signing more agreements in fields such as trade and investment, agriculture and food security, tourism among others.
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