RUSSIAN POLICY IN IRAQ, THE MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
The situation in Africa south of the Sahara -- a vast region comprising 46 of the 53 African states -- was complicated in the outgoing year. Numerous armed conflicts continued on the continent, with successful resolution of some crises (Angola, Sierra Leone) "compensated for" by the aggravation of others (Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Guinea Bissau) and tensions in the remaining "hot spots" (DRC, Burundi, the Great Lakes area as a whole, Ethiopia-Eritrea, the Central African Republic).
The situation in the economic and social sphere remained serious. The "seismic" risks in Africa posed a threat to international security and provided fertile soil for extremist and terrorist manifestations, illegal migration, drug trafficking, and transborder crime diverting the efforts and resources of the world community, which continued to vigorously assist the efforts of the African states to strengthen stability on the continent.
The issues of regional conflict settlement were invariably at the focus of attention at the UN Security Council. The UN preserved a sizeable peacekeeping presence in Africa. In addition to earlier UN operations, it deployed peacekeeping operations in Cote d'Ivoire and Burundi, and decided to enlarge the peacekeeping operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo. International conferences were held on the Great Lakes region and post-conflict rehabilitation in Liberia, round tables of international donors to Guinea Bissau and Burundi, an international seminar to work out mechanisms to deliver assistance to Somalia and a number of similar events took place. Inside Africa there was a growing awareness that ensuring a more lasting peace is the basic condition for successful solution of the problems facing the continent. Serious steps were made to accelerate the organization and political emergence of the African Union (AU). The Peace and Security Council that started functioning within its framework is called upon to be a permanent mechanism of the Pan-African organization in preventing and settling conflicts, including the development of a common defense policy of the AU and coordination of the efforts of the African community in fighting international terrorism. Work began under the aegis of the PSC to form permanently combat-ready African forces in the subregion. The Pan-African parliament has been created which also pays much attention to the issues of collective security. The tasks of ensuring stability in Africa have moved to the fore in the activities of the Economic Community of West African States, the Southern Africa Development Community, the Intergovernmental Development Organization and other subregional structures.
On the positive side one can note the commitment of the states on the continent to implementing the New Partnership for African Development program adopted by the Pan-African organization in 2001. Measures were taken to launch practical activities of the African Peer Review Mechanism created to monitor compliance with the obligations assumed by the African countries and broader participation of the continent's states in it.
The African community's own moves to ensure stable development of the region enjoyed international support. The relevant problems were among the main items on the agenda of the current 59th session of the UN General Assembly, other international forums and organizations, including the Sea Island summit of the G-8. The implementation of the G-8 action plan for Africa adopted at Kananaskis in 2002 continued. In spite of the acute problems, the African continent remains important for international economic and political processes. The African countries which comprise almost a third of the world community, continue to play a notable role in the preparation and adoption of agreed international decisions on global issues and seek to occupy a worthier niche in the system of world economic relations.
The continent with its rich, often unique reserves of minerals and other resources, the availability of cheap labor in combination with favorable natural conditions that ensure one of the highest profit rates in the world, is still highly attractive for foreign partners, in particular, the states of Western Europe, North America, Japan, China, India and Southeast Asia.
The expansion of mutually beneficial partnership with the countries of the region in various areas also meets the interests of Russia. All the necessary prerequisites for this are there. The African states are our time-tested partners in international affairs. Africa is a promising market for Russian goods, a potential source of raw materials for the growing national economy, it is attractive in terms of investment cooperation, the participation of Russian entrepreneurial entities in various projects and programs on the continent.
The political dialogue between our country and the African states south of the Sahara has been fairly intensive. Positions were agreed on key aspects of the international agenda, including the building of a just and democratic world order, the strengthening of the central role of the UN, the fight against terrorism and extremism and counteraction to other new challenges and threats. The foreign ministers of Gabon, Senegal and the Republic of Congo and other officials from a number of African states have visited Moscow. During the current session of the UN General Assembly the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with the foreign ministers of South Africa, Mali and Mozambique. Deputy foreign ministers of Russia have met with the leaders of Angola, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia. Parliamentary and other Russian delegations have visited the continent. About 15 political consultations between foreign ministries have been held, including some at the level of deputy foreign ministers.
Russian representatives have attended the African Union summit in Maputu, the inaugural session of the AU Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa. Interaction with the South African Development Community, the West African Economic Community, the Intergovernmental Development Organization and other subregional organizations was being established.
A concerted effort was underway to step up trade and economic links whose current level still falls short of the considerable potential. In this context, one of the priorities was improving the results of the activities of bilateral intergovernmental commissions. The Russian co-chairs have been appointed of intergovernmental commissions with Angola, Guinea, Namibia, Nigeria, Ethiopia and SAR. Meetings of intergovernmental commissions have been held with SAR and Nigeria. Similar meetings were held as part of the preparation for the holding of a session of the Russian-Angolan intergovernmental commission. The issues of improving the legal-treaty basis have been constantly at the focus of attention.
Thanks to the efforts taken, the positive dynamic of trade with the African countries south of the Sahara was preserved, trade amounted to some 800 million dollars in 2003 and, judging from the results of the nine months of this year, it may grow by about a fourth in 2004. Russian business structures have been expanding their presence in the region by involving themselves in a number of major investment projects in Africa, including in the sphere of developing mineral resources. Alrosa and Tekhnopromexport in Angola (development of the Katoka diamond fields and the building of the Kapanda and Hydroshikapa hydroelectric power plants), Russky Alyuminii in Guinea (the development of bauxites), Nigeria (participation in the privatization of the Alskona aluminum plant) and in Ghana (plans to develop bauxites and acquire an aluminum plant), Tyazhpromexport and Zarubezhstroimontazh in Nigeria (completing the construction of the steel plant in Ajaokute). Stroitransgaz has some prospects in Ethiopia (Keluba gas condensate deposit).
Scientific and technical ties were developing, including in the sphere of high technologies (nuclear energy, astrophysics, exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes). Certain results have been achieved in establishing interaction in such a promising area as fishing.
At the same time it has to be said that progress of cooperation with the African countries in the economic sphere has continued to face a number of difficulties, including insufficient available information for Russian and African partners on their mutual potential and needs, lack of any significant interest in Africa among most of our major economic operators, undeveloped mechanism of state support of business cooperation with the continent. Yet these are undoubtedly "teething" problems, difficulties of a practical nature which can be surmounted through joint effort.
An important component of our African line has remained active participation in international measures to render diverse forms of assistance to the continent. Our country has contributed to the adoption of corresponding resolutions by the UN and other international organizations, implemented the G-8 plan for Africa together with the partners in the G-8, agreements on African problems achieved at the Avian and Sea Island summits, took part in developing measures to assist the implementation of the program in the "enlarged dialogue" format. Russia was contributing in a substantial way to developing an overall strategy of the settlement of conflicts on the continent, the political line of the international community in each concrete crisis situation, determining the mandates of corresponding peacekeeping operations, agreeing steps aimed at a comprehensive solution of the tasks of post-conflict reconstruction. Our assistance to strengthening security in Africa has yet another dimension: at present about 230 Russian servicemen and security men are involved in the UN peacekeeping operations in Africa: in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Western Sahara, Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Our status and the activity at the UN provided further opportunities for involving Russian structures in the implementation of international programs of strengthening the African peacekeeping potential, including by training African peacekeepers and their transportation, as well as post-conflict reconstruction programs.
In terms of economic assistance, the Russian Federation has continued to offer African states broad preferences in the field of trade, consistently contributed to alleviating their debt burden as part of the initiative for very poor countries with large debts. In 1998-2002 alone we wrote off 11.2 billion dollars of the debt of African countries. The total amount of debts of African states written off by Russia in 2003-2004 was 107.97 million dollars. Furthermore, our country assumed an obligation to write off more than 1 billion dollars of Ethiopian debt to the Paris Club.
Substantial assistance to African countries was rendered in training national personnel in the sphere of health. The states in the region have been afforded about 700 grants out of the federal budget, and for the first time cooperation in this sphere involved also the training of personnel for subregional associations, in particular South African Development Community. Russia has continued to be involved in financing the Global HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Fund and the World Initiative to eradicate poliomyelitis. The fundamental course in support of Africa which Russia intends to stay in the future, has contributed to solving the task of global stability, strengthening the international authority of Russia, its positions on the continent and in the world as a whole, to the creation of more favorable conditions for the development of fruitful cooperation with African countries.
Aleksandr Saltanov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia