Lavrov to leave for Latin American tour August 21 – Lukashevich

MOSCOW, August 18 (Itar-Tass) — Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will make the Latin American tour on August 21-25, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Thursday.

During the tour, Lavrov will visit El Salvador, Peru and Venezuela. One of the priorities “is to strengthen a political dialogue and trade and economic relations”. “Trade turnover is growing. In 2010 it increased by 15 percent and reached 12.4 billion U.S. dollars.” “Both countries develop joint projects in nuclear energy and space,” the diplomat said.

“Russian businessmen show interest in the region. Among Russian companies are Gazprom, LUKoil, Inter RAO UES,” he said.

“The expansion of the visa-free travel in Latin America facilitates relations between Russia and the region. Russia signs agreements on visa free travel with Argentine, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Peru and Chile. An agreement was signed with Ecuador. Russia is preparing deals with Guatemala, Panama and Uruguay,” Lukashevich said.

“Special attention will be paid to the work by Aeroflot and Transaero to restore direct air service with Brazil, Argentine, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, Panama, Nicaragua, Cuba and Chile,” the spokesman stressed.

During the talks in El Saldavor, both parties are expected to sign an agreement on a basis for conducting relations. This document will provide the foundation for developing multilateral bilateral interaction. We are also planning to coordinate other documents, which will expand the legal base of our cooperation, Lukashevich pointed out.

While in Peru, the talks will focus on expanding trade and economic cooperation. “It is important to bring trade turnover to the level, which would correspond to the potential of our countries. By taking into account the participation of Russia and Peru in the APEC the meetings will centre on prospects for stepping up cooperation within this format,” he said.

“Venezuela is one of the key partners of Russia in Latin America. We maintain multifaceted interaction,” the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman stressed.

“We are satisfied with the fact that the joint oil and gas, and energy projects promote. Russia continues to build social housing in Venezuela and cooperation in this sphere grows. Our interaction in the car industry, agriculture and fisheries is big prospects. We praise the implementation of projects in the field of military-technical cooperation,” Lukashevich added.

Commenting on certain assessments related to “allegedly militarization” of the Latin American and Caribbean regions and Russian weapons supplies to several countries, primarily to Venezuela, the diplomat noted, “There are no reasons for talking about it.” “Defence expenditure does not exceed 1.5 percent of total GDP,” he explained. “Colombia ranks first with 4.0 percent. Chile’s defence expenditure is 3.4 percent and Brazil 1.5 percent,” he added.

“In addition, there have been no restrictions or U.N. Security Council sanctions to Latin American countries on arms purchases. Russia does not supply offensive hardware. For technical parameters these are purely defensive arms,” Lukashevich concluded.

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