Russian Foreign Minister to start tour of Latin American countries

MOSCOW, August 21 (Itar-Tass) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov starts a tour of Latin American countries Sunday.

His five-day trip will embrace El Salvador, Peru and Venezuela.

The main task, which Moscow sets for itself in relations with these countries is “to bolster political dialogue with a developed system of trade and economic relations”.

Russian diplomats indicate that the experts who have started speaking about a “decade of Latin America” have a good reason to do so, since the region is second only to Asia as regards the rates of economic development.

Interests towards cooperation with Latin American nations is shown by Russia’s major corporations, including the energy sector giants like Gazprom, LUKOIL and Inter RAO UES.

According to Alexander Lukashevich, an official spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, the signing of a document on the fundamentals of relations between the two countries will be the highlight of Lavrov’s talks in El Salvador.

“The agreement will lay a solid foundation for variegated bilateral cooperation and the two countries’ short-term plans suggest the signing of a range of other documents to expand the legislative basis,” Lukashevich said.

The talks in Peru will focus on the ways of raising the volumes of bilateral trade to a level matching the economic capability of the two nations.

“Considering the fact that both Russia and Peru are participants in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum /APEC/ and hence a discussions of the ways for increasing collaboration within APEC will be one of the items on the agenda of discussions,” Lukashevich said.

In Venezuela, Lavrov and his hosts are expected to consider the implementation of a joint plan for the development of Russian-Venezuelan partnership through to 2014.

Lukashevich said in this connection that Russia and Venezuela have already established diversified cooperation and the Russian side is satisfied with the pace of action under quite a number of projects, especially the ones in the energy sector, construction of accessible social housing and manufacturing of defense technologies.

“Our collaboration has fair prospects in car manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries,” Lukashevich said.

He mentioned the problem of alleged militarization of Latin America and the Caribbean and the supplies of Russian weaponry to the region — primarily to Venezuela – in this context.

“Defense spending in Latin American countries doesn’t exceed 1.5% of their combined GDP on the average,” Lukashevich said.

Among the regional countries, Venezuela, which spends a rather modest 1.1% of the GDP for defense, is not the biggest spender for the purpose. Columbia’s spending for these purposes reaches 4.0% of the GDP and Chile’s, 3.4%.


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