A RIA Novosti interview with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov's in view of a visit to Russia to be made by SADC Executive Secretary Prega Ramsamy's MOSCOW, August 26, 2003. /RIA Novosti correspondent.
Q.: What is the SADC? What role does it play in Africa's integration processes?
A.: The Southern African Development Community, SADC, was set up in 1980, first as the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference, SADCC. At present the organisation comprises 13 states (Angola, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Mauritius, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, South Africa). The SADC agreement was signed in Windhoek, Namibia, in August 1992.
The SADC is one of the largest and most influential sub-regional organisations in Africa. The total number of SADC members' population amounts to almost 200 million people, the aggregate GDP is estimated at $170 billion (2000).
The SADC Executive Committee is situated in Gaborone, Botswana. The incumbent executive secretary is Prega Ramsamy from Mauritius.
The SADC has adopted its programme of action that includes economic and social projects. It takes measures to create a favourable investment climate inside the SADC, and to unify the economic and judicial space. There are plans to create a free trade zone.
In 1996 the SADC body for politics, defence and security was set up. Its main task is to prevent and settle domestic and inner-state crises in the sub-region.
Q.: How important is development of the interaction with the SADC for Russia? What role can Prega Ramsamy's visit due on August 31 - September 4 play in this respect?
A.: We attach particular importance to developing co-operation with the Southern African Development Community. Russian interaction with the SADC has positive dynamics. We assess positively the activities of this influential organisation in promoting integration processes, ensuring peace, security and stability in the South African region and on the African continent as a whole.
In March 1999 the Russian ambassador to Botswana was accredited as the official Russian representative to the SADC Executive Secretariat.
SADC Executive Secretary Prega Ramsamy is making his working visit to Russia on the invitation of Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to discuss ways to expand the country's dialogue with the Community, specify co-operation with its member states in different spheres.
We consider the forthcoming meetings with Prega Ramsamy in Moscow as a logical continuation of the consistent course to intensify the African area of Russia's foreign policy.
We hope that this high-level visit, the first one of its kind in the history of our relationship with the SADC, will not only allow us to strengthen our mutual understanding with the Community member-states on a broad number of issues, but will also contribute to expanding our interaction with them on the international arena in both bilateral and multilateral formats. We also hope that it will serve as an incentive for developing mutually profitable co-operation in a number of areas.
Q.: What will be on the agenda of Prega Ramsamy's talks in Moscow?
A.: During the talks with Igor Ivanov, the parties will thoroughly analyse the main trends in the world developments, also from the point of view of new global threats and challenges. Special attention will be paid to such topical problems as the formation of a democratic world order, and the co-ordination of efforts to counteract international terrorism. They will touch upon issues of strengthening the UN's leading role in preserving peace and stability, consider the situation around Iraq, as well as the progress in the Middle East peace process.
The parties will also exchange opinions on how to prevent and settle conflicts and crises in Southern Africa and on the continent in general, as well as on how to enhance the peacekeeping potential of African states, with the focus being put on the SADC activities in this direction.
They will also thoroughly discuss how to ensure the stable development of African states, prospects for the implementation of the New Partnership for African Development programme, NEPAD, including in the context of the decisions taken at the G8 summit in Evian, the African Union summit in Maputu and the SADC summit in Dar es Salaam. Russia party will confirm its principal support for the NEPAD and the course for active co-operation with the AU, SADC and other integration organisations on the continent in order to implement it.
The Russian Foreign Minister and the SADC Executive Secretary will discuss the state and prospects for expanding co-operation in different spheres. Special attention will be paid to finding ways for using the existing potential in developing contacts with the SADC member states in trade and the economy, including through attracting the involvement of the parties' business circles.
An important result of the visit will be a memorandum be signed by Ivanov and Ramsamy on mutual understanding between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Southern African Development Community on the basis of relations and co-operation. This will be a framework document defining the format of the Russia-SADC partnership in the future.
Practical issues of establishing closer co-operation in specific areas will be on the agenda of Ramsamy's meetings with Russian ministries and departments. The visit's schedule also includes an economic seminar that will be arranged with the assistance of the Russian Trade and Industry Chamber and will be attended by businessmen and the interested Russian organisations.