Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, MP held officials talks, in a most warm and friendly atmosphere, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow this morning. This was the first official visit by a Bangladesh Foreign Minister to Russia, at the invitation of Russian Foreign Minister, since the then USSR recognized Bangladesh as an independent country in January 1972. The visit also coincided with 45 years of diplomatic relations betweenthe two countries. Both ministers agreed to pursue to achieve shared goals for the mutual benefits of the two peoples.
Foreign Minister Lavrov termed Bangladesh as a ‘reliable partner’ and highly appreciated the upward trajectory of bilateral relations, particularly since official visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Moscow in January 2013. He further recalled the fruitful meeting between the two prime ministers on the sidelines of ASEM Summit in Ulaanbaatar in July 2016. He expressed high satisfaction at the regular political dialogue/interactions at the Foreign Ministers, Deputy Minister/Foreign Secretary and senior official level. He also expressed happiness at the volume increase in two-way trade, that crossed $ 1.5 billion in 2015-2016 and hope that economic cooperation would be further intensified in the future.
Foreign Minister Ali recalled with deep gratitude the tremendous support that was extended by the people and Government of Russia (then USSR) during our War of Liberation in 1971. He also recalled with deep sense of appreciation the supreme sacrifice made by some of the Russian servicemen while clearing mines in the port of Chittagong, as part of the post-war reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts in Bangladesh. In recognition of that Dhaka bestowed “Bangladesh Liberation War Honour” and the “Friends of Bangladesh Honour” to those Russian friends in 2012.
Ever since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Moscow in 2013, Bangladesh and Russia have been closely working to establish mutually beneficial and comprehensive economic partnership in various sectors. Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (RNPP) now stands as a signature initiative in that respect. Both ministers expressed satisfaction at the progress made so far in the project.
Minister Ali handed over a personal letter from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina addressed to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, to Foreign Minister Lavrov, inviting her counterpart to visit Bangladesh. In her letter, Bangladesh Prime Minister expressed confidence that Prime Minister Medvedev’s visit would be a milestone in marking the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, including laying the foundation to take it to the next level.
Both the ministers expressed satisfaction at the signing/ratification of two important agreements in the recent past, respectively, Agreement on the Establishment of Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic and Scientific and Technical Cooperation and Agreement on Visa-free Travel for Holders of Diplomatic and Official Passports. They opined that these instruments would enhance people to people contact. In the above context, Mahmood Ali emphasized on early operationalization of the recently established Intergovernmental Commission on trade, economic and scientific and technical cooperation and offered Bangladesh’s readiness to host the first meeting in Dhaka in 2017.
Mahmood Ali sought support of Foreign Minister Lavrov for duty-free quota-free access of Bangladesh’s exports in Russian market and also in the member states of Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union. He also invited Russian investors/companies for entering into joint-ventures or 100% owned business venture in the 100 special economic zones, those are currently under implementation. Minister Lavrov indicated that Russian companies may be interested to be engaged in ICT projects in Bangladesh and in that context suggested for appropriate proposals/invitations from Bangladesh side.
Both ministers expressed satisfaction at the ongoing collaboration between Gazprom International and Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration Company (BAPEX) in energy sector since 2012, particularly exploring new wells for gas. Minister Lavrov opined that the level of cooperation in energy field could be further intensified.
The two sides expressed satisfaction at the ongoing defense cooperation between the two countries, including defense procurement under the US$ 1 billion State Export Credit from the Russian Federation. Minister Ali sought support of his counterpart for providing enhanced training for Bangladesh armed forces personnel in Russian defense institutions. The Russian Foreign Minister agreed to take up the matter with his colleague at the Defense Ministry.
Foreign Minister Lavrov thanked Bangladesh for its support at the UN and allied bodies. He particularly appreciated Bangladesh’s balanced approach and understanding on many global issues of mutual interests. Both minister agreed to intensifying cooperation between the two countries in UN and other international fora.
Both the ministers discussed regional issues of mutual interests, including the situation concerning Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar. Bangladesh Foreign Minister sought the support of his Russian counterpart for finding a permanent solution of the protracted issue.
At the end of bilateral official talks, both the minister attended a joint press conference, followed by lunch. Mahmood Ali invited Foreign Minister Lavrov to visit Bangladesh at an early date. Minister Lavrov warmly accepted the invitation.
Later in the afternoon, Foreign Minister Ali visited the Russian Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications and held a meeting with the minister in charge Mr. Nicoli A. Nikiforov. He then witnessed signing of two Memoranda of Understanding namely MoU between the Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications of the Russian Federation and Ministry of Information of Bangladesh on cooperation in the field of mass communications, and MoU on cooperation between the ITAR TASS News Agency (of the Russian Federation) and Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS). Foreign Minister Ali expressed happiness at the signing of these MoUs and requested both the Russian minister to consider reviving the Bengali Service of Radio Moscow.