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Remarks of H.E. Mr. Victor I. Sibilev, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Botswana at the official Opening of the exhibition on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic relations

Honourable Mr Dumezweni Meshack Mthimkhulu, Assistant Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration on behalf of the Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation of the Republic of Botswana;

Your Excellency Mr. Festus Mogae with spouse, Third President of the Republic of Botswana

Honourable Mrs. Gaositwe K.T. Chiepe, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Republic of Botswana

Honourable Mr. Terence Rannowane, the Chief Justice of the Republic of Botswana

Honourable Dr Lemogang Kwape, Minister of Health and Wellness of the Republic of Botswana

Honourable Mr Buti Billy, the Assistant Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development of the Republic of Botswana

Honorable Dr. Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, Former Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation of the Republic of Botswana

Esteemed Mrs. Skelemani, Spouse of the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Botswana

Esteemed Mr. Moses D.Pelaelo, Governor of the Bank of Botswana

Ambassadors, High commissioners, Heads of Diplomatic missions and International Organizations,

Senior officers of the Government and Ministries of the Republic of Botswana,

Distinguished Guests,

Russian compatriots,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. Introduction

It is my great pleasure to welcome all of you today here, at the Botswana national museum to share our common holiday – the 50th 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 origins and development of diplomatic relations between our 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. I would like to express my gratitude to our partners for their assistance in organizing this exposition, namely the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, and the authorities of the Botswana National Museum.

2. History

Russia and Botswana have been enjoying longstanding ties of friendship, mutual respect and cooperation for decades. It was on September 30, 1966 at the dawn of the birth of the newly independent state on the same day when Botswana declared its Independence the Government of the former Soviet Union proposed Botswana to establish diplomatic relations. However this proposal was put into effect on March 6, 1970 when then USSR and Botswana Ambassadors to London Mr. Smirnovsky and Mrs. G.Chiepe exchanged the respective Notes. This historic event was followed by opening of the Russian resident diplomatic mission in Gaborone in 1976.

With everything changed in the modern world, Russia is no longer the great part of the former Soviet Union but its successor-state and Botswana is no more a country at the foot of a “dangerous volcano about to erupt”, as its 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 starting from pre-independence period has always supported Botswana, as well as other African states, in their desire to decide their own destiny, develop independently, improve living conditions and uphold dignity of their peoples.

3. Legal framework of cooperation

Russia and Botswana during the considerable period of mutual cooperation in various spheres have succeeded in expanding the legal framework of their bilateral relations. At present there are eleven bilateral documents signed by the respective governments and ministries of the two countries. The most important of them are the Trade Agreement (1987), the Agreement on Cultural, Scientific and Educational Cooperation (1999), the Protocol on Political Consultations (2002), the Agreement on visa free travels on diplomatic and service passports (2005), the Agreement on military-technical cooperation (2013), the Memorandum of Understanding in the Field of Education (2016), the Agreement on the exemption of visa requirement for the nationals of the Russian Federation and the nationals of the Republic of Botswana (2019) and others.

Furthermore, together with our Botswana partners we are working on several interministerial MOUs and other Agreements which are designed to expand our cooperation in the fields of healthcare, environmental protection, industry and investment.

4. Political dialogue

We positively consider continuity of political dialogue with Botswana. 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. In 2019 the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Mr. S. Lavrov and Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation of the Republic of Botswana Dr. U. Dow met for negotiations on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Above this the last year was marked by the private visit of His Excellency Mr. Festus Mogae to Russia. He was received by Special Presidential Envoy for African countries and Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Mr. M. Bogdanov and made his tour of Russia including Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi.

In 2020, it is turn of Botswana to host bilateral political consultations and we hope that both sides will do their best to reach new heights in Russia-Botswana interaction.

We consider our bilateral cooperation on international arena as successive and mutually beneficial. It comprises such issues of high importance as preventing of the arms race in outer space, combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, countering the use of Information and Communications Technologies for criminal purposes and others. We appreciate as well this year cooperation of Russia and Botswana as Chair and Vice-Chair of the Kimberley Process respectively.

5. Economy

The trade and economic relations between our countries based on the principals of equality and mutual benefit are being considered as a sphere of high potential. In 2019 the trade volume between Russia and Botswana increased from 20 to 28 mln US dollars. It is still less than our desire. According to President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, Russia’s new goal declared at the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi in October 2019 is to double the mutual trade with Africa from 20 billion US dollars to at least 40 in next 5 years. So that Botswana is also a part of this plan. First of all, we count on cooperation in infrastructure, manufacturing, energy and water resources. In this case the experience of the Russian mineral companies Norilsky Nickel and ALROSA could be a good example of our collaboration.

6. Education

Our countries enjoy a long-standing cooperation in the sphere of education. Russia is engaged in the training of Botswana specialists in different areas, including mining, engineering, medicine, IT and others under the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the then Minister of Education and Skills Development Mrs. Unity Dow in Moscow in June 2016. In accordance with the MOU the quota of the Russian government scholarships annually allocated to Botswana has been increased up to 30, out of them 5 – for medical specialties.

Besides this, the prominent institutions of higher education of our countries have been cooperated for a durable time. The Russian Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna and Botswana International University of Science and Technology in Palapye have been enjoyed cooperation since 2015. The other example of the successful partnering in the spheres of education and science research is the cooperation between the Russian People’s Friendship University named earlier after Patrice Lumumba, the national hero of the Republic of Congo, and University of Botswana which signed the MOU on February 5, 2020.

At present, around 300 Botswana students study at Russian universities, both on state-sponsored and commercial basis. Russia as well supports Botswana Police Service, mainly through provision of sponsorship for short-term skills development courses and programmes of higher education.

7. Conclusion

In conclusion, with pleasure, I would like to reiterate that Botswana and Russia have already walked a long path together. And certainly much more awaits us in the future. I am convinced that the deepening of Russia-Botswana partnership following the time-tested traditions of friendship, equality and mutual respect makes our countries stronger, more prosperous and resilient to all sorts of challenges. Let us continue working together for the benefit of the peoples of Russia and Botswana.