A RIA NOVOSTI INTERVIEW WITH OFFICIAL RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN ALEXANDER YAKOVENKO IN VIEW OF SOUTH AFRICAN FOREIGN MINISTER NKOSAZANA DLAMINI ZUMA'S VISIT TO RUSSIA
Q: On November 12 South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma will arrive in Moscow. What are the tasks and targets of this visit?
A: Mrs Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma will participate in the third session of the Russia-South Africa Joint Intergovernmental Commission for Trade and Economic Co-operation (SMPK) as the South African co-chairwoman.
The talks between Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma will allow positions to be harmonised on a wide range of international issues, including the Middle Eastern peace process and the situation around Iraq, as well as African problems, including the assistance of the G8 with Russia as a member, and the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) programme.
The foreign ministers will continue discussing further co-operation in trade and the economy, science and technology and other areas, involving the work of the third SMPK session. The sides will also consider the progress of the agreements achieved at previous SMPK sessions, seeking to increase trade turnover, develop interregional ties and expand the legal basis of bilateral interaction.
Q: What is the current state of Russo-South African relations?
A: South Africa is one of Russia's most important partners and oldest friends in Africa. The country enjoys considerable international authority, is a leader of the African community and of the Non-Alignment Movement, while it pursues an active foreign policy.
Intensive contacts between Russia and South Africa at all levels boost bilateral ties.
In September 2000, Vladimir Putin first met South African President Thabo Mbeki at the Millennium Summit in New York. The sides then considered interaction in international affairs, and promising areas of bilateral economic and scientific-technological co-operation.
In September 2002, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov met Thabo Mbeki at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.
As for inter-parliamentary ties, the official visit of a Russian State Duma delegation headed by Speaker Gennady Seleznyov to South Africa in September 2001 and the return visit by Speaker of the National Assembly Frene Ginwala in May 2003 were landmark events.
Q: How is Russo-South African trade and economic co-operation developing?
A: In a bid to co-ordinate bilateral trade and economic ties, we set up the SMPK between Russia and South Africa. The second SMPK session held in Pretoria in November 2002 saw South Africa recognise Russia's market economy status. Russia in turn included South Africa in developing countries enjoying trade privileges (customs duties for South African goods have been cut 25%).
Bilateral trade in 2002 amounted to $138.1 million, with Russia having trade surplus, and in the first six months of 2003 - $52.81 million. Russia's exports to South Africa are dominated by mineral resources, chemical products, metals, and industrial equipment. South Africa imports to Russia fruit and vegetables, technological equipment, and foodstuffs.
Q: How are humanitarian contacts developing?
A: In April 1999, we signed an intergovernmental agreement on cultural co-operation. In October 2000 and July 2001, the Bolshoi ballet performed in South Africa. During Igor Ivanov's visit to South Africa in December 2001 the sides signed a protocol on co-operation in culture and the arts for 2002-2004.
Educational contacts are developing mainly between universities. The University of Pretoria is co-operating with MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations) and the Moscow University of Commerce. The largest higher educational establishment dealing with correspondence courses, the University of South Africa (UNISA), maintains ties with the St Petersburg Institute of Management and Economy, and Moscow International University. Other South African universities are showing interest in co-operation with Russian universities.
At present Russian universities are training 18 South African citizens. The Association of Graduates of Russian (Soviet) Universities numbering over 150 members has been set up in Pretoria. Its chairman, E. Fundi, attended the World Forum of Graduates of Russian (Soviet) Universities held in Moscow in May 2003.
There is an Orthodox parish in Midrand near Johannesburg. In early 2003, South Africa was visited by a delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate headed by Chairman of the Church External Relations Department Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad.
Q: How is regional co-operation developing?
A: The two countries' capitals are most actively developing ties on the basis of the agreement the Moscow and Pretoria mayors signed in September 1998.
During the visit of Cape Town Mayor Peter Marais to St Petersburg in June 2001 resulted in an agreement on establishing partnership ties between St Petersburg and Cape Town.
In August 2003, Moscow was visited by a delegation of the Economic Development Agency of the Gauteng province. The delegates met officials of the Economic Development Ministry, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Moscow and Russia, and bank structures.
In September 2003, Premier of the North-West Province Popo Molefe visited the Moscow and Samara regions and signed a memorandum on co-operation between the Samara region and his province.