Address by H.E. Mr. Victor I. Sibilev, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia to Botswana at the Ceremony Celebrating the 45th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic relations between the RF and the Republic of Botswana
Honourable Mr. Shaw Kgati, Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation,
Dear Colleagues, members of the Diplomatic community and the esteemed Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation,
Senior Government officials here present,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you today here, at the Botswana national museum, a place where culture meets history. Tomorrow we celebrate the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Botswana.
I have the honour to open the exhibition devoted to the history of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Documents from the archives of the Russian Foreign Ministry as well as memorable photographs serve to illustrate the milestones and key events in our common history, in which the founding father of the Republic of Botswana President Seretse Khama as well as his successors Quett Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae played their important part. I would like to express my gratitude to our partners for lending assistance in organizing this exposition, namely the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture, and the administration of the Botswana National Museum.
Russia and Botswana enjoy longstanding ties of friendship, mutual respect and cooperation. Diplomatic relations were established in 1970 after the exchange of notes between the Embassy of the Soviet Union and the High Commission of Botswana in London. This was followed by opening of our resident diplomatic mission in Gaborone in 1976. Since then the Soviet Union, and then the Russian Federation, has become Botswana’s friend and partner.
Times change. Russia is no longer the Soviet Union. Botswana is no more a country at the foot of a “dangerous volcano about to erupt”, as the first President Seretse Khama eloquently put it back in 1978 while receiving Letters of Credence by the first Soviet resident Ambassador to Botswana Mikhail Petrov. Nevertheless our country has always supported Botswana, as well as other fledging African states, in their desire to develop independently, raise living standards and uphold dignity of their peoples.
Today we are prepared to further strengthen friendship and cooperation with the Republic of Botswana. Exactly that desire has frequently been reflected in messages regularly conveyed by President Vladimir V. Putin to the President of Botswana Seretse Khama Ian Khama,and by heads of Russian Foreign Ministry and the Parliament to their counterparts.
We positively consider continuity of political dialogue with Botswana, which is appraised in Moscow as one of successfully developing countries in Africa with a stable internal situation and dynamic economy. What brings our countries closer is the common commitment towards ensuring stability and security, sustainable development and establishment of fair international trade relations.
In accordance with the Protocol signed in 2002, political consultations are regularly held by Foreign Ministries of Russia and Botswana. We strive to raise their level and agenda. Mr. Mikhail Bogdanov, Deputy Foreign Minister, Special Representative of President Vladimir Putin for Africa is coming to Botswana on the 23 of March to hold consultations with the Foreign Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi.
As far as the parliamentary cooperation is concerned, the Chairman of the State Duma of Russia Gennady Seleznyov visited Botswana in 2001 and the Speaker of the Botswana National Assembly Patrick Balopi paid a reciprocal visit to our country in 2005. We intend to resume the contacts between our legislative bodies at a high level.
We will facilitate expanding legal framework of Russia-Botswana relations. At present we have eight bilateral documents, including the intergovernmental Trade Agreement, the Agreement on Technical and Economic Cooperation and the Agreement on Cultural, Scientific and Educational Сooperation. Discussions are on-going to sign an agreement on mutual protection of investments, designed to boost investments.
Two memoranda of understanding in areas of health and education are at an advanced stage as well.
We deem important to focus on ways to strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation in the area of trade and economy. To ascertain this allows the existing potential in mining, power, water and infrastructure development. A deal of experience has been accumulated during operation of “Norilsk Nickel” in Botswana since 2007. However, we have other major mining companies, which could establish mutually beneficial ties with partners in Botswana.
We take interest in creating practical cooperation in the diamond sphere. Russia and Botswana being two major players of the rough diamond market possess all key ingredients to glue a partnership. JSC «Alrosa» has already been prospecting for diamonds in a joint venture with «Botswana Diamonds».
Russia’s Kristall Production Corporation – a major integrated polishing and jewelry enterprise in Europe could offer its unique experience in polishing technology and manufacture of jewelry. This can be of use since one of the leading centres in global diamond trade has taken shape in Botswana.
In recent years the Embassy facilitated participation of Botswana delegations in a number of bilateral and multilateral forums, particularly from the Ministry of Trade and Industry and Botswana Export Development and Investment Agency. We are determined to bolster our bilateral economic cooperation by sending to Gaborone a Russian business mission in 2015.
Russia is prepared to continue assistance in training Botswana specialists in such areas as law-enforcement, health and education. We are currently working on increasing the quota of government scholarships allocated to Batswana. On the whole about 300 Botswana students are studying in Russia at the moment.
Taking into consideration high demand for qualified teachers in Botswana, plans are underway to resume practice of inviting Russian academics to Botswana Universities to teach various disciplines.
Russia and Botswana each boast rich wildlife and nature, possess well- established tourism industry. Together we can explore ways of forging direct links to develop mutually beneficial cooperation in these areas.
We are united by joint desire to combat poaching, prevent extinction of wild species through criminal activity of international poaching networks. The kinds of wildlife we protect may differ – for Botswana it is the Big Five, while for Russia – it is Amur tiger, Caucasian and Far Eastern leopards and Polar bears. However, we are ready to cooperate and assist each other in that regard.
We can also work together to uplift bilateral cooperation in tourism. Russians and Batswana have been for long travelling as private tourists to destinations in our countries, such as Okavango, Chobe and Kalahari or Moscow, St. Petersburg and Baikal. To boost numbers we can elaborate intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in tourism.
What would definitely give an impetus to Russia-Botswana relations is the opening of a permanent diplomatic mission of Botswana in Moscow. I assure you that the Russian side has a most positive opinion on this idea and will extend all necessary assistance. Who knows, maybe the 50th anniversary of our diplomatic relations will be celebrated simultaneously in Gaborone and Moscow.
“Rome was not built in a day”, it is said. But looking back one can see that Botswana and Russia have already walked a long path together. And certainly much more awaits us in the future. Let us continue working together to raise the edifice of our friendship for the benefit of the peoples of Russia and Botswana.