By Kenn Klomegah, Moscow Bureau Chief
Moscow, June 6, GNA, - While pledging Russia's support for Africa's development, Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov has urged African leaders to find sustainable solutions to problems confronting individual countries on the continent.
'We support the principle that African problems require African solutions. We are convinced that African countries know better than anyone else how to overcome difficulties on the path to peace, stability and sustainable development. The world community is called upon to help Africans and support these aspirations,' he said.
Lavrov was addressing the African diplomatic community, senior Russian government officials, business representatives, academia and the media during the African Day celebrations in Moscow.
Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama and Zambian Foreign Minister Harry Kalaba who were visiting the country also attended the ceremony. Earlier before the Africa Day event, both Onyeama and Kalaba, on behalf of their governments and together with Russian officials, reaffirmed their shared determination to deepen and diversify partnership and search for new, promising areas of cooperation.
Russia has unreservedly confirmed its readiness to further expand wide-ranging cooperation. 'Russia's consistently friendly, partner relations with African states, based on the principles of equality and mutual respect, have stood the test of time and continue to develop. Russia is interested in developing cooperation with the African Union and other African associations,' Lavrov told the gathering.
Socio-economic progress is inseparable from our ability to ensure peace and security. Thus, Russia continues to support the efforts of Africans to prevent and settle conflicts, including building up their own peacekeeping capacity.
'We are ready to broaden our cooperation in fighting international terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking and piracy,' Russia's Foreign Minister stressed.
There are good opportunities for promoting trade and economic ties. 'We support the interest in expanding Russian business activity in Africa and the implementation of regional projects on mineral resources, energy infrastructure and agriculture. We will continue carrying out debt-for-development programmes and using most favoured nation status in trade,' he explained
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia wrote off Africa's debt amounting to about $20 billion which experts said was accumulated from arms and weaponry deliveries or supplies to a number of African countries.
Russia has also done a great deal to alleviate the debt burden, particularly in the framework of the Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, and in writing off multilateral debts to the IMF and the International Development Association (IDA).
Russia has been developing high-level and top-level political dialogue, promoting inter-parliamentary ties and expanding cooperation between foreign ministries. This year alone Moscow played host to the foreign ministers of Burkina Faso, Zambia, the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Eritrea.
Reports indicated that following the diplomatic talks, the sides confirmed that their positions align on most international issues and ways of addressing security challenges and threats.
Russia will continue rendering humanitarian aid to African states, including as part of the UN and the G20, to African countries that have fallen victim to conflicts, natural and man-made disasters and pandemics.
Concerning education and training of specialists for Africa, the number of Africans studying in Russian universities is growing every year. There are about 15,000 students in Russia now, according to official reports.
The Head (Doyen) of the Diplomatic Corps and the Ambassador of Madagascar, Dr Eloi Maxime Dovo noted that Russia and Africa countries shared solid ties of friendship and mutual respect that had stood the test of time and it was very important that the future cooperation was given a new dynamic impetus to uplift it to greater heights.
'The development of political dialogue between Russia and Africa and the increase of mutually beneficial cooperation in the trade, economic, science and technology, and humanitarian sectors offer us many new opportunities. I am sure that by working together we can make fuller use of our countries' potential and enrich the spectrum of our diverse ties,' he said.
President Vladimir Putin sent his traditional message of greetings to the heads of African states and governments in which he praised the successes of African countries in diverse spheres, as well as Africa's growing role in forming a fair and democratic multi-polar international order.