Russian foreign policy
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     January 31, 2002

     Transcript of Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Ivanov's Remarks at Joint Press Conference Following Talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Kingdom of Morocco Mohamed Benaissa, Moscow, January 30, 2002

     171-30-01-2002

     Foreign Minister Ivanov: Today, interesting and substantial talks with my counterpart, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Kingdom of Morocco Mr. Mohamed Benaissa, took place. He conveyed a personal message from King Muhammed VI of Morocco to President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and expressed the interest of the Moroccan leadership in developing all-round cooperation with Russia.

     Such an approach is fully shared by the President of Russia and the Russian leadership. We are interested in expanding cooperation between our countries, a rich experience of bilateral ties has been accumulated, and in the new conditions good opportunities exist for their development.

     The volume of trade between Russia and Morocco in 2001 grew substantially. Morocco is now our second largest trade partner in the African continent. We are confident that such dynamics in relations meet the interests of the two states. Today we discussed prospects for cooperation also in other fields of mutual interest.

     Morocco enjoys deserved authority on the international scene, and Russia is interested in developing coordination in the solution of regional and global problems. We discussed in detail questions of the fight against terrorism, considered the situation in the Middle East and around Iraq. Our positions largely coincide. We held an exchange of views on the search of possible ways for a political settlement of the situation in Western Sahara.

     The talks will continue, but it can already be said now that our positions are similar. We are interested in developing the political dialogue between our countries, including at the highest level. Russia is ready for that.

     Question: What is the position of Russia on resolving the situation in Western Sahara, and how do you assess the proposals of the UN Secretary General's special adviser, James Baker?

     Foreign Minister Ivanov: The position of Russia on Western Sahara is well known. We believe this problem can be solved only by political means. Therefore Russia has given support to the UN peace plan, which was approved in its time by the parties directly involved in the conflict. At the same time we consider other suggestions possible that would be based on the principles set forth in the peace plan and would be endorsed by the sides. That's how we feel about the well-known proposals of Mr. Baker.

     Once again I want to stress that Russia is interested in resolving this problem. We understand that it complicates the situation in the region and impedes integration processes in Maghreb. Taking into account the high level of Russian relations with Algeria and Morocco, we will use this for rendering assistance in the search of ways to resolve the existing situation.

     Question: Have any changes been made to the plan of your upcoming trip to Asian countries following the dismissal of the Japanese Foreign Minister?

     Foreign Minister Ivanov: The events occurring in Japan are its internal matter. Of course, we will take into consideration the decision which Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will adopt. There are no problems on our side as to the date of the visit. Yet we will take into account the opinion of the Japanese leadership on this question as well.

     We believe the personnel changes in the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs will not affect the dynamics in the evolution of our bilateral relations. To us it is of basic importance that the Japanese Prime Minister in his recent contacts with Russian President Vladimir Putin firmly reiterated the continuity of the policy of the Japanese leadership for the development of ties with the Russian Federation. We have always stressed that Russia is interested in developing stable, long-term bilateral relations in all fields. And they shouldn't be affected by some or other momentary events. It is from this point of view that we will be building relations with Japan.

     January 30, 2002



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