February 02, 2012

Sacramento Bee: Russia-Fiji Meeting "Important and Successful"

First-ever High-level Meeting Results in Several Outcomes
By Republic of Fiji
Published: Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012 - 4:11 am

NADI, Fiji, Feb. 1, 2012 -- /PRNewswire/ -- "The Pacific region is today the priority of foreign policy for the Russian Federation," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a press conference following a half-day of talks with Fijian Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama and Fijian Foreign Minster Ratu Inoke Kubuabola. "The key players are located here," he said.

The meeting in Fiji, the first high-level visit from a Russian official to the country, afforded the Russian Federation the opportunity to strengthen ties with Fiji, as well as meet with numerous other foreign ministers from the Pacific Island Countries. As Minister Kubuabola said during the press conference, "Fiji is the hub of the Pacific, but we are a part of the global community. We must expand our horizons to new friends and opportunities."

Conversations during the day covered a number of topics, from security to climate change. In response to a question about the new United States policy focus on the Asia-Pacific region, Minister Lavrov said: "The region is becoming the powerhouse of the world economy, and with economic influence comes political influence. And certainly the interests which we witness in this region create some risks to security"—referencing nuclearisation on the Korean peninsula among other issues. Minister Lavrov added: "We should all approach security in the region in an open way, on the basis of respect of each other" to ensure against "creating problems."

The economy was the central issue of discussions. "We've got the common understanding that the priority of the day are the programs and projects that will drive real growth and make the economies of the [Pacific] region even more independent," said Minister Lavrov.

Minister Kubuabola concurred: "By diversifying our relations with such countries as Russia, we are creating greater stability for ourselves. We hope to establish new lines of trade that help diversify the types of job opportunities there are for Fijians."

The meeting resulted in a number of outcomes between Fiji and Russia, including an outline of areas of economic cooperation in which "concrete" next-step proposals would be created, an accord to establish visa-free travel to promote tourism between the countries, and a look at how Russia can support Fiji's contributions to peacekeeping missions around the world.

The Russian Minister concluded by saying, "We seek to find partners in the region, and we would really like to cooperate in a mutually beneficial manner in order to promote our ties and improve visitation in the region. And let me say that we are not making friends against anybody."

Russia has accepted an invitation from Fiji to again meet on the ministerial level next September during the United Nations General Assembly.

SOURCE Republic of Fiji

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