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Foreign Minister Mahmood Ali met with Governor of Leningrad Oblast (Saint Petersburg) and visited Gazprom Headquartersin Moscow

Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, MP met with the Governor of Leningrad Oblast Alexander Drozdenko on Saturday at the Governor Mansion in St. Petersburg yesterday. The Governor briefed the historic importance of the capital of the region: St. Petersburg, a city built by Czar Peter the Great. He further briefed the Foreign Minister on the growing economic importance of St. Petersburg as the trade and transit hub of the eastern and western parts of the entire Europe. Regarding trade, Foreign Minister Ali said that Bangladeshi export items like pharmaceuticals, ocean going vessels, leather goods, tea especially organic tea, potato and fragrant rice are quite popular in the different European countries and foresees good potential in Russia as well. The two sides also discussed possibility of joint venture in ship building industry for production of medium sized vessels and fishing trawlers.

The Governor particularly expressed his desire to recruit skilled professionals especially medical doctors from Bangladesh. Citing historic value of St. Petersburg’s architectural beauty and its role as a major port city of Russia, Foreign Minister Ali proposed to make Chittagong as twining city. He further invited the Governor to visit Bangladesh, along a business delegation, which the Governor cordially accepted.

On 14 April, Foreign Minister Ali visited Russian Joint Stock Company Gazprom's HQs in Moscow and met with its Chairman Alexey Miller. He was accompanied by the Bangladesh Ambassador in Moscow Dr.Saiful Hoque, Energy and Mineral Resources Secretary Nazimuddin Chowdhury, DG (Europe) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other members of his delegation. At the beginning, Gazprom Chairman greeted the Foreign Minister with the warm wishes for the Bengali New Year 1424!

Foreign Minister Ali gave a short briefing on priorities set forth by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to become a Middle Income Country by 2021 and Developed Country by 2041. In that context, he underscored the high demand for energy for a fast growing economy, which grew by 7.1% in 2016. The Foreign Minister highlighted the successful signing/ratification of two important intergovernmental agreements between Bangladesh and Russian Federation, namely, Agreement on the Establishment of Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and technical Cooperation and Agreement on visa-free visits of the holders of diplomatic and official (service) passports. . He mentioned this instrument as the landmark for advancing the ongoing discourses ahead. In this context, he highlighted Prime Minister's personal confidence on Gazprom's mission in Bangladesh which is evidenced by its rapid involvement in 15 gas wells with ostensible successes. Mr. Miller shortly briefed Gazprom's mammoth operation, sprawling over mainly in Europe and Asia, generating annual revenue approximately USD 90 million. He opined that the involvement of Gazprom in Bangladesh is very low which is not commensurate with its prodigious operation across the globe. He urged Bangladesh side to explore other commercial involvement with Gazprom not only in exploration but also in production and distribution, LNG supply and terminal construction, pipeline laying etc. He mentioned the importance of having an MOU to envisage the cooperation in this regard. Bangladesh Energy Secretary Mr. Chowdhury acknowledged the necessity for concluding the MOU on Cooperation in Energy Sector between the Governments of the two countries and said that the draft proposed is at final stage of consideration and could be signed in future.

Among others the Managing Director of Gazprom's subsidiary company, Gazprom EP international BV, Andrei Fick was present. He briefed the delegation on the recent successes, action plans and the readiness of Gazprom to expand its operation in Bangladesh. Gazprom has recently opened its office in Dhaka and is poised to involve in a big way in Bangladesh. The Foreign Minister welcomed the interest shown by Gazprom and invited the company to come and invest in Bangladesh in a bigger way.

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Sunday, April 16, 2017