RIA NOVOSTI INTERVIEWS ALEXANDER YAKOVENKO, RUSSIA'S MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS PRESS SPOKESMAN, A PROPOS A VISIT TO TUNISIA BY IGOR IVANOV, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
QUESTION. What importance does Moscow attach to Igor Ivanov's visit to Tunisia? What progress have Russo-Tunisian relations made?
ANSWER. This is a first-ever visit to Tunisia by Russia's Minister of Foreign Affairs throughout the history of our bilateral relations. It is destined to be a landmark event as the two countries are extending dialogue and partnership, and Russia is working for a stronger position in the Arab-populated Maghreb, which is an area of strategic importance. We regard Tunisia as an essential and promising political and economic partner.
Russo-Tunisian contacts have spectacularly gained in dynamism within a few recent years. Their considerable positive potential promotes Russian interests. Our political dialogue has an ever richer content. The Millennial Summit of 2000 saw first-ever Russo-Tunisian summitry. The Tunisian Minister of Foreign Affairs paid a routine visit to Moscow in May 2001. The two Ministers of Foreign Affairs had a bilateral conference soon after that, at an OSCE foreign-ministerial session in Bucharest, and the Russian and Tunisian Ministries of Foreign Affairs held several rounds of consultations.
Our two countries have ample room for political partnership, what with close or even coincident stances on many topical international issues.
The latter point mainly concerns the international anti-terror cause, efforts for a just world order with the United Nations leading the entire arrangement of international relations, and regional conflict settlement. There is another reason why closer contacts with Tunisia are important to Russia: Tunisia is pursuing balanced foreign policies, has earned major respect in its part of the world, and in the whole world, as well. Its influence is growing. We are fully aware of spectacular practical results of bilaterally coordinated efforts in the United Nations Security Council. Tunisia was its non-permanent member in 2000 into 2001.
Q. What international problems will dominate the agenda as Igor Ivanov meets his partners at the Tunisian negotiation table?
A. The negotiators will focus attention on Mideastern developments and the situation round Iraq, especially in the context of the Beirut summit of the League of Arab States at the end of March, and its achievements. Moscow orients its strategies on the peace process revived proceeding from the Madrid conference decisions, UN Security Council resolutions Nos. 242 and 338, and available agreements and understandings.
As for the Iraqi problem, we are sure it is to be settled solely by political and diplomatic means. The use of force may bring disastrous consequences to the entire Middle East.
We intend to go on with opinion exchanges on North African and the whole of Mediterranean developments--especially considering their direct impact on the national security of many countries, Russia among them.
Q. Will the progress of Russo-Tunisian trade and other economic contacts appear on the agenda?
A. It will. The negotiators intend to discuss practical aspects of closer bilateral commercial and economic partnership with an account for government and private companies alike.
Certain success has been achieved in that field--suffice it to say that last year's trade turnover amounted to US$142.8 million, Russian exports to Tunisia making $136.9 million of the whole. Much remains to be done, however, the potential being not wholly implemented to this day. The two countries ought to break up new fields of economic partnership. The bilateral intergovernmental commission for trade and economic, research and technological cooperation must step up its efforts.
We hope for considerable headway to buttress the treaty and legal basis of bilateral relations.
Both countries are interested in stepping up trade and in closer contacts in such long-established fields as hydrotechnical construction (in particular, Russian assistance was prominent at the Sidi el Berrac hydropower complex, Tunisia's largest, which was commissioned in 1999); health care--171 Russian doctors are presently employed in Tunisian hospitals on contract; and personnel training.
Brilliant prospects are also offered as contacts are stepped up between the two countries' research and educational establishments.
© Publication of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. Reference is mandatory in case of reproduction.