Russia - Ghana relations/

PRESS RELEASE
Russian Embassy in the Republic of Ghana
P.O.Box 1634, 856/1, 13th Lane, Ring Road East, Accra, Ghana,
Tel: 775611, Fax: 772699


THE TEXT OF THE LECTURE ON "FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC POLICIES OF MODERN RUSSIA" DELIVERED BY MR. SERGEY LOBANOV, MINISTER-COUNSELLOR OF THE EMBASSY OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION IN GHANA, TO THE STUDENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF GHANA (LEGON)
(November 1, 2005)

INTRODUCTION

Russia is a country about 1.8 times the size of the US occupying the vast area between Europe and the North Pacific Ocean. It has an area of 10, 672,000 sq. miles (17.075.200 sq. km) and a population of almost 150 million people.

The country possesses a wide array of natural resources including major deposits of oil, coal, and natural gas, many strategic minerals, diamonds and timber. The economic zone along the 23,533 mile (37,653 km) long coastline (Arctic and Pacific Oceans, Baltic, Black and Caspian Seas) holds significant reserves of fish and oil and natural gas on the sea shelf. Most of the country has a so called harsh continental climate characterized by a big difference between summer and winter temperatures (it gets indeed very cold in Siberia during winter, but it is also very hot in the summer). Russia's geographical location presents a significant obstacle to development - dry or cold climate, terrain, distance and remote location from major sea lanes, all these factors contribute to the situation when large parts of the country have almost no population and development. Russia has only 8% of arable land.

Russia is a multiethnic society. The largest ethnic groups include Russians (81.5%), Tatars (3.8%), Ukrainians (3%), Chuvash (1.2%), Bashkir (0.9%), Byelorussians (0.8%), Moldavians (0.7%), etc. Over 80% of the population name Russian - the official language of the country - as their native. Other languages are used in ethnic minority regions. Russia has equal religious diversity: with the main religions being Russian Orthodox Christianity and Muslim overall over 150 confessions could be found across the country.

Administratively, the Russian Federation is divided into 21 republic, 6 krays (federal territories), 2 federal cities, 49 regions, 1 autonomous region and 10 autonomous areas.

Russia abounds in mineral resources whose total potential value (in world prices) is estimated at an impressive $30 trillion. Russia produces 17 per cent of the world's crude oil, as well as 25-30 per cent of its natural gas, 6 per cent of all bituminous coal, 17 per cent of commercial iron ore and 10-20 per cent of all non-ferrous, rare and noble metals mined across the globe.

The largest oil-and-gas deposits are to be found in Western and Eastern Siberia and on Sakhalin Island.

The list of Russian mineral deposits includes gold, silver, platinum, cobalt, antimony, zinc, mercury, and many others. Russian mineral resources are distributed rather evenly along the nation's territory. For instance, copper-and-nickel ores are mined in the Northern Caucasus, the Urals, Siberia and some other Russian regions.

DOMESTIC POLICY

I. POLITICAL SITUATION

Russia is a country that has chosen democracy through the will of its own people. It chose this road of its own accord and it will decide itself how best to ensure that the principles of freedom and democracy are realised here, taking into account our historic, geopolitical and other particularities and respecting all fundamental democratic norms. As a sovereign nation, Russia can and will decide for itself the timeframe and conditions for its progress along this road.

But consistent development of democracy in Russia is possible only through legal means. All methods of fighting for national, religious and other interests that are outside the law contradict the very principles of democracy and the state will react to such methods firmly but within the law.

In the last five years we have had to tackle difficult tasks to prevent the degradation of state and public institutions in our country. At the same time, we had to create the foundation for development in the next few years and decades. We cleared the debris and gradually moved ahead. In that sense, the stabilization policy was practically a policy to react to the accumulated problems. This policy was, in general, successful. However, it has reached the limit of its effectiveness.

It must be replaced with a policy for the future. And for that, we must have an efficient state.

We proceed from the idea that it is both essential and economically advantageous to have developed democratic procedures in the country; that it is politically prudent to maintain a responsible dialogue with society. Therefore, a modern Russian official must learn to speak with the public using the modern language of cooperation, the language of common public interest, dialogue and real democracy, rather than the jargon of military orders.

Speaking on the internal policy of the Russian leadership I would like to draw your attention to the matters of political reform in Russia. After the Beslan tragedy Russian leadership began to reform Russian political and administrative systems. Such reforms were conceived earlier but the tragic events in the city of Beslan strongly precipitated their initiation. And I would like to reiterate here that these changes do not mean that Russia rejected generally accepted democratic principles. The reform is the state's reaction to the pending threat of terrorism, in other words, an attempt to adapt the state to the growing threat of international terrorism. From the other side, the reform is the attempt to settle our domestic problems.

You maybe know about changes proposed by the Russian President with regard to the way the heads of the regions are elected. This law has now been passed. To the critics of these steps I would like to say that there are different models of state systems in the world, probably there is no one perfect. For example: can anyone announce the elections of governors in the USA - to be democratic but the appointment of prefects in France not?

Russia also is moving towards a parliament that would be elected based on party lists. Here too there are issues we must work through in order to ensure that these new proposals will be of genuine benefit to the country in practice and will enable us to build a more balanced political system and encourage the development of a multiparty system in the Russian Federation.

Another issue is state of the press freedom in Russia. Affirmation of the pressure towards the Russian media is only one's bare words. The President of Russia Mr.V.V.Putin underlined many times that independent media is an important instrument of developing democracy in our society; its existence - is our own interest.

There are a lot of different newspapers, TV and Radio channels in Russia. There is no secret that there are state media but private independent media are in a great majority in the Russian Federation. Among private media there are those which sharply criticize Russian authorities and the government. In some other countries the journalists would have lost their jobs for all such critics. Those who talk about independent media and freedom of the press absence in Russia have never seen Russian newspapers.

II. FEDERAL RELATIONS

In his annual address to the Federal Assembly, President Vladimir Putin said that the country's unity has been re-established de facto and de jure, and that state power has been strengthened.

The federal authorities are now closer to the regions. Re-establishing a common legal space throughout the country has made it possible to begin active work on division of powers between the federal and regional authorities. Work has also begun on making the regional power system more effective and better financed.

The totally unacceptable situation that saw certain Russian territories put themselves beyond federal jurisdiction is at an end. All regions of the country now recognize the supremacy of the Russian Constitution and federal laws and the obligation to pay taxes into the national treasury.

A few words about Chechnya. Political settlement is already in progress in the Chechen Republic. Chechnya adopted the Constitution, elected the President and is getting ready for parliamentary elections. A large-scale program of socio-economic recovery has been launched. Everyone who strives for political settlement has a real opportunity to join this process.

What is needed to continue the process of settlement in Chechnya? There are currently two main directions. The first is the continuation of the political dialogue involving an increasingly greater number of the most diverse people with the most diverse views on the development of Chechnya as a subject of the Russian Federation.

The second is the development of the economy and the revival of the social sphere.

To regard today's Chechnya as only the field of struggle by federal troops and Chechen police with groups of terrorists means not to notice the main thing. Much more important is the following - the war-weary republic has, at last, begun the construction of a peaceful life.

The economy is being revived, and in the first places its core - oil production. In 2004 Chechnya exceeded the level of oil production of the Soviet times, by extracting 1.96 million tons. Electricity supply is resumed to more than 200 populated areas, where 80 percent of the population lives.

In Chechnya, where under Maskhadov's rule only one form of "education" was cultivated - the training of terrorists in special camps - there function 457 general education schools, three higher educational institutions, and 19 technical colleges today, with a total of 225,000 students and a teaching staff of 21,500.

Of course all this is only the beginning of the big work on restoring the economy and social sphere of Chechnya. But those who keep saying about a "catastrophe" in today's Chechnya should be reminded: under the rule of Dudayev and Maskhadov, 90 percent of schools, and 85 percent of hospitals in Chechnya were closed, pensions were not paid (all the budget funds, including those transferred from Moscow, went on the purchase of arms and recruitment of mercenaries), and on Fridays a market of slaves operated in Grozny's main square (about 35,000 people were forced to engage in slave labor in Chechnya).

III. SOCIO - ECONOMIC SITUATION

The task set for us to double the country's GDP by the year 2010 means developing a set of measures in the economy and the social sphere. A part of them involve the continuation and deepening of the work which the Government has been carrying out for the last three years. It is tax reform, the removal of administrative barriers hindering normal economic activity, reformation of the natural monopolies, improvement of the conditions for foreign economic activity, and transformations in the financial sector.

Over these last years the Russian economy has been growing at a rate of around 7 percent a year. This is a much higher growth rate than that of a large number of developed countries and countries in transition. We are not the absolute leader for economic growth but we are among the leaders. Last year our economy grew by 7.1 percent and this year we are expecting a figure of 5.9 percent. This is a good result and it is a condition for other positive developments in our country, above all, rising living standards for our people. Indeed, real income growth, minus inflation, stands at around 8.5 percent. We have a trade surplus and a primary budget surplus. The Central Bank's gold and currency reserves are growing and have now reached $162.9 billion (October 2005). Just as a reminder, in 2000 they stood at only $12 billion. We are paying off our foreign debt - 16 percent of our country's gross domestic product - here we have one of the best results in Europe. We have created the Stabilisation Fund, what some other countries call a fund for future generations. In any event, all of this together creates an absolutely stable situation in the country. People can plan their lives. They can better plan their business and family lives. And what is very important is that this all helps to put in place the conditions for being able to find broad solutions to pressing social problems and resolving the problems some sectors of our economy still face.

INTERNATIONAL ISSUES

I. FOREIGN POLICY

Our objectives on the international stage are very clear - to ensure the security of our borders and create favourable external conditions for the resolution of our domestic problems. We are not inventing anything new and we seek to make use of that entire European civilisation and world history has accumulated.

A priority area in Russia's foreign policy is ensuring conformity of multilateral and bilateral cooperation with the member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to national security tasks of the country. The emphasis will be made on the development of good neighborly relations and strategic partnership with all CIS member states. Practical relations with each of them should be structured with due regard for reciprocal openness to cooperation and readiness to take into account in a due manner the interests of the Russian Federation, including in terms of guarantees of rights of Russian compatriots.

We are also ready to take part in an effective partnership with all countries in order to find solutions to global problems - from finding effective ways to protect the environment to space exploration, and from preventing global man-made disasters to addressing the threat of the spread of AIDS. And of course we are also ready to join efforts to fight challenges to the modern world order such as international terrorism, cross-border crime and drug trafficking.

During the past year Russian diplomacy was more active in all areas. Russia's relations were dynamically developing with its main partners in the West and in the East, with key international organizations and regional structures. It needs to be stressed that Russia used its increased potential not solely or largely to advance the purely Russian interests but rather for the achievement of common goals that our country shares with the majority of the world community.

Russia has played a key part in combining the world community's efforts in the fight against terrorism. Following the tragedy in Beslan the UN Security Council's resolution 1566 was adopted on Russia's initiative, which substantially reinforces the international legal base of the fight against terrorism, including the liquidation of its infrastructure and sources of financing, as well as the prevention of the sheltering of terrorists from justice.

Terrorism is currently striking not only at Russia, but also at many other countries of the world. This is a common global threat now. In order to fight this common evil effectively and successfully, it is necessary to combine efforts, it is necessary to speak one and the same language, it is necessary to move away from the policy of double standards in the definition of what terrorism is.

It is necessary, finally, to get rid of the stereotypes and rhetoric of the Cold War, when the same actions of practically the same organizations, but in different regions of the world used to be declared - according to the current political situation - either terrorist actions or a struggle for independence.

Among other international issues I would like to mark the following.

Our interaction with the United States continued to grow stronger. We must be allies in fighting terrorism, there is simply no choice. Along with the United States, leading European nations and other countries, Russia has become a full-fledged participant in the security initiative related to non-proliferation of mass destruction weapons. Our country has been promoting a very useful dialogue with the United States on strategic stability. The two countries have a quite concrete plan of action, approved by their presidents in virtually every area of ensuring security and promoting economic and other collaboration in bilateral relations.

In spite of certain difficulties, Russian cooperation with the European Union has substantially advanced. There has been signed and ratified the Protocol extending the Russia-EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement to the New Members of the European Union, which takes into account our concerns, including those about the protection of the rights of the Russian-speaking population in the Baltic States. The Russia-EU Summit in The Hague constituted an important landmark in the joint work on the formation of the Four Common Spaces - common economic space; space for freedom, security and justice; space for co-operation on external security; and space for research, education and culture.

As part of our multivector foreign policy an important impulse has been given to the participation of Russia in multilateral cooperation and to the development of bilateral relations within the Asia-Pacific Region, including in the interests of the economic development of the regions of Siberia and the Russian Far East. At the APEC Summit in Chile Russia joined in the processes of regional cooperation in the fight against terrorism and in the trade-and-economic field. Russia's accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia of 1976 (the Bali Treaty) constituted a major step towards deepening our partnership with ASEAN.

The entire world welcomed the ratification by Russia of the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, opening the way to the entry of this important document into force.

II. RELATIONS WITH AFRICA

Today African states play an ever more noticeable role in the system of international relations. In the mainstream of world trends, processes are getting under way on the continent which will determine the complexion of Africa for the long term: the development of regional integration and peacekeeping mechanisms, the strengthening of democratic institutions, the pursuit of reforms in the economy.

Russia shares the desire of the African peoples and states to determine their future independently and to assume the main responsibility in questions of peace and security, economic management, the thrifty utilization of natural resources, the fight against corruption and the effective use of development assistance funds. All this has found reflection in the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) policy guidelines.

Russia took a direct and initiating part in the elaboration of the Plan of Action for Africa, adopted at the Group of Eight summit in Kananaskis. This document is oriented towards helping the implementation of NEPAD and towards the areas of partnership in which the G8 can really assist in overcoming the complex challenges facing Africa.

Our cooperation with Africa is intended for the long term. In this context we are disposed toward the real implementation of the decisions made by the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.

III. RUSSIA AND THE AFRICAN STATES SOUTH OF THE SAHARA

Political dialogue between Russia and the African states south of the Sahara is fairly intensive. We have common positions and approaches 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 in 2004 and the first two months of 2005. During the 59-th 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 and foreign ministers of Angola, Ghana, 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.

Concerted efforts are underway to step up trade and economic links. 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 it grown by about a fourth in 2004. The Russian Federation continues 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 Russia 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 2003-2005 was 1.307.97 billion dollars.

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 sub-regional 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.

IV. RESOLUTION OF THE CONFLICT SITUATION IN AFRICA

We resolutely support the UN's efforts to help settle armed conflicts in Africa and to deepen cooperation in this field by the United Nations with authoritative international and African regional and sub-regional organizations. At the same time, preventive and peacemaking efforts by African countries themselves should become more effective. We are convinced that it is necessary to help strengthen the regional mechanisms of early crisis warning, prevention and settlement, along with helping form in the continent effective security structures, geared to, among other things, the accomplishment of objectives of post-conflict reconstruction. We expect that the Peace and Security Council, established within the African Union, will contribute to this.

We favour the establishment of a special consultative group on problems of countries which have endured conflicts, in line with the decision of the UN Economic and Social Council. We are ready to actively participate in discussing proposals to foster closer cooperation between the Security Council, ECOSOC and other bodies of the UN system in questions of post-conflict reconstruction in Africa.

Russia shares the generally recognized belief in the link between peace and development. We support the formation of a complex and all-embracing approach to the settlement and prevention of conflicts, the eradication of poverty, the securing of development and consolidation of democracy in the African continent. We presume that priority should be given to the employment of politico-diplomatic methods and the neutralization of factors contributing to the origination and continuation of conflicts. It is undoubted that the key role in this matter belongs to the Africans themselves.

Russia is 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. Russian 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.

New challenges and threats have not bypassed Africa. It is highly important that in approaches to them the Security Council should act as decisively and seriously as it does in other regions. Double standards are impermissible. We strongly support such approach.

The Council missions to the continent have to encounter and assess such a new and fearful phenomenon in Africa as the spread of illegal armed bands. Often these bands shake constitutional foundations and even the bases of the very existence of sovereign states. In many cases they have no program, but only a wish to seize power at any price. And the price of this is many tens and hundreds of thousands of lives of peaceful Africans. By killing, plundering and raping the civilian population, how do these gunmen differ from terrorists?

Not infrequently armed groups are being manipulated from abroad; they become the exponents of the interests of neighboring countries. This phenomenon has acquired a regional character; it poses a threat to international peace and security. To avert the worst, governments are forced to enter into contact with these armed groups and make compromises within the framework of an intra-national dialogue. This is explainable and understandable. Each situation requires individual consideration. Nevertheless, such an approach leads to the legalization of rebels, to the fact that, instead of constitutional ways of solving internal problems, a choice is being made in favor of violence.

The questions of border security require a new judgment. For historical reasons the African borders have always been transparent. This helped preserve the fabric of the ties of kinship between tribes and facilitated cross-border cooperation. Now the penetrability and unprotectedness of borders has in many cases become the cause of a spillover of conflict situations, unlimited flows of the illicit arms trade, contraband, transfrontier crime, the illegal exportation of natural resources and the free migration of armed groups and mercenaries. The Security Council missions should take note of this problem, fraught with further destabilization in individual African areas.

Russia supports the efforts being made by the UN to strengthen the peacemaking potential of Africa, and to foster effective partner cooperation in the field of peacekeeping. Cooperation by African peacemaking structures with the Group of Eight appears to be promising. We note with satisfaction the step-up of peacemaking efforts by the African Union and by such sub-regional organizations as ECOWAS, SADC and IGAD. We welcome the great contribution to peacemaking by a whole array of African states. At the same time we are concerned that in certain cases the assessments of the Security Council and African authorities do not coincide, and the appeals of our partners from Africa do not always find support in the Council. Russia agrees with the proposal of the chairman of the African regional group in the UN for carrying out Security Council consultations with the African Union. We support the suggestion on cooperation with sub-regional organizations. We should heed the opinion of the Economic Community of Central African States regarding the mandate of MONUC.

A number of UN members mentioned such a means of influence on the violators of peace and security as sanctions. This is a very sharp weapon. A regime of international sanction is imposed by decisions of the Security Council. It is binding for execution. The more impermissible it is when, as one group of UN experts reported to us recently, the objects of sanctions do not even know that they are under their influence. The Security Council should more carefully follow the implementation of its own decisions. In Russia opinion, in the course of the trip to West Africa the Security Council will have the chance to see for itself how effective are its sanction decisions against certain states of this region.

There exist no quick recipes for the solution of the extensive tasks of resolving the African conflicts. The purposeful efforts of both the friends of Africa and, in the first place, Africans themselves will be required. We would like to believe that the upcoming UN Security Council missions to this continent in accordance with their approved mandates will help to settle the crises there and to neutralize the new challenges and threats to Africa.

V. RELATIONS WITH WEST AFRICA

Russia support friendly cordial relations with all countries of the West Africa sub-region. We have our diplomatic missions in almost all states - members of ECOWAS. Russia cooperates with them on multilateral and bilateral levels. We coordinate our work in the international organisations, especially in the UN. We held inter-ministerial political consultations with our West African partners on a temporary basis.

Russia highly support the efforts of ECOWAS aimed at political and economic integration, strengthening of confidence and mutual understanding in the sub-region. The activity of ECOWAS aimed at prevention and resolution of the conflict situations, struggle against illegal arms trafficking and transnational criminality in the region. We believe, that the ECOWAS in cooperation with UN and the African Union will further contributed heavily to a settlement of conflicts, achievement a strong peace and security and maintenance of stability in the African continent.

Russia is interested in deepening of mutually beneficial cooperation with ECOWAS member-states on the bilateral and multilateral format. We hope that by joint efforts we give our cooperation new dynamics effectively realise a considerable potential of equivalent partnership.

As for bilateral relations with West African countries, we have the most developed cooperation with Nigeria and Guinea.

For instance, we have good political and economic ties with Nigeria. Nigerian President visited Moscow. We held several meetings of Intergovernmental Commission for the Development of Trade and Economic Relations. During the visit of Nigerian President to Moscow Russia and Nigeria signed a cooperation agreement in the fields of science and culture for the next three years. In the economic sphere particular attention is paid to joint work in the field of geological prospecting for mineral and energy resources in Nigeria. Concrete projects were considered, including completion of construction of a metallurgical plant in Nigeria. Joint activity is being contemplated in the sphere of high technologies, along with the launching of several satellites in the interests of Nigeria for environmental monitoring and remote earth probing.

Separate consideration is given to the question of cooperation in the agricultural sphere, especially in the area of the production of farm products and their supply to the Russian market.

We have a positive dynamic in Russia - Guinea bilateral trade and economic relations. During the years of cooperation, Russia assisted Guinea in building a bauxite mining plant with the capacity of 3 million tons a year, revamping a railway line, building a university in the capital, a central stadium, a hotel, a radio station and a number of other projects. Russian geologists conducted a survey of a region with an area of 45,000 square km. A highway was built in Conakry. 2,400 hectares of land was developed to grow rice.

Annual commodity amounted to over 86 million dollars (including 4 million in export from Russia, and 82 million dollars in import). Russia supplied Guinea with equipment, trucks and dump trucks, other industrial products. Aluminum remains the principal import item.

Over ten Russian commercial entities and joint ventures established with their participation are working in the country.

VI. RUSSIA - GHANA RELATIONS

Russian people cherish our long-standing, friendly relations with Ghana. We know very well the great impact of this country on stabilization processes in West Africa and its role in the settlement of conflict situations in the continent as a whole and we are ready to continue strengthening our cooperation and to explore new spheres for prospective work.

Today Ghana, due to its dynamic and responsible leadership, is quickly gaining not only the role of a Gateway to West Africa, but also becoming an influential hub point of continental politics. We are witnessing many positive changes in Ghana macroeconomic and political situation, in the development of democratization processes in the country.

President of the Russian Federation Mr.V.Putin on the occasion of the Independence Day of Ghana said: "I am convinced that the relationships of friendship and mutual understanding between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Ghana will deepen consistently in the interests of our nations, for the benefit of peaceful and sustainable development of the African Continent." And a little bit earlier he said the following phrase: "Lasting traditions of friendship have developed between Russia and the Republic of Ghana. We well know the weighty contribution of your country to stabilizing the situation in Western Africa, to resolving conflicts in the continent as a whole. We are ready to continue to strengthen cooperation and open new areas for long-term joint work."

There are a lot of political contacts between Ghana and Russia. Officials from both countries have exchanged visits which have improved the overall relations between the two countries. Among them - the visit of the Russian parliamentary and business delegation to Ghana in 2003, the visit of the Ghanaian parliamentary delegation headed by the former Speaker of Parliament Rt. Hon. Mr. Peter Ala Adjetey to Moscow and Saint-Petersburg in 2004, the establishment of Ghana - Russia business association (now - Chamber of Commerce), the formation of Ghana - Russia parliamentary group, the business trips to Ghana of the delegations of several Russian companies. I also would like to mention the meeting of Ghanaian Foreign Minister Mr. Nana Akufo-Addo with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister A.Saltanov in New-York and the visit of the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Y.Fedotov to Ghana within the framework of his working trip to several West African countries. The year 2005 also is full of political events in our bilateral co-operation. The inter-MFA consultations were held in Moscow in June. Much attention during these consultations was devoted to examining the state of, and prospects for Russian-Ghanaian relations and there was confirmed the disposition to advance further cooperation between Russia and Ghana and use more actively the available possibilities for that. An exchange of views on specific areas of, and mechanisms for the expansion of mutually beneficial ties took place. Dr. Kwame Addo-Kufuor, Minister of Defence, visited Russia in August. During his journey to Russia he attended the Seventh Moscow Aviation and Space Salon - MAKS-2005, met with representatives of Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, officials from Russian state-owned arms sales agency "Rosoboronexport". The sides discussed a number of issues relating to military and technical cooperation and the need to adequately equip the Ghana Armed Forces provide training for Ghanaian military pilots and the establishment of a training school in Ghana. He also visited St. Petersburg where the Ghanaian delegation held discussions with some Russian businessmen on the possibility of establishing joint ventures in jewellery industry in Ghana.

We are trying to renew the legal base of the Russia-Ghana Bilateral relations. There are several agreements which are under consideration of both sides in this time. I would like to mention such draft agreements as on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments and Avoidance of Double Taxation; on cooperation on prevention of drug trafficking; on inter-MFA political consultations etc. Moreover we are working on restoration of the work of Russia-Ghana Joint Permanent Commission for Cooperation.

I would like to draw your attention to one more important and symbolic event. In January 2005 we began to construct a new Complex of the Russian Embassy in Accra. It will be the first newly built Russian Embassy in Africa over the past 15 years. This very fact clearly reaffirms the Russian Government's intention to consistently develop relations with the Republic of Ghana. It also shows that the Russian Federation considers the Republic of Ghana to be one of the leading countries in West African sub-region and a reliable and time-tested partner.

That is all what I wanted to say just for the beginning. Now I am ready for your questions. Please, go ahead.

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