‘Zimbabwe-Russia ties unbreakable’ President Mnangagwa meets Russian President Vladimir Putin at Konstantin Palace in St Petersburg late on Thursday night. — Picture: Presidential photographer Joseph Nyadzayo

Kudakwashe Mugari in St PETERSBURG, Russia

ZIMBABWE will continue deepening and entrenching its relations with like-minded countries like Russia that can also help it in achieving food and national security, President Mnangagwa has said.

Speaking during a meeting with his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin, here on Thursday night, President Mnangagwa said Russia can also tap into the vast investment opportunities found in Zimbabwe as the country is open for business.

 The President met President Putin at Konstantino Palace for one-on-one talks ahead of the 27th St Petersburg International Economic Forum which opened yesterday.

The meeting further consolidated gains registered through the engagement and re-engagement diplomatic offensive with President Mnangagwa saying Harare stood ready to continue solidifying relations with Moscow.

A comprehensive partnership between the two countries, he said, would see mutually beneficial co-operation in various fields.

“Our countries, by and large, are isolated zones, which is why we need to develop comprehensive relations with the Russian Federation. I assure you, President of the Russian Federation, I intend to provide support to you personally from Zimbabwe.

“We received support from you in the form of food last year, we received military support, security support. These are important areas. There are excellent opportunities: the Russian Federation can take part in the development of the mining sector of our country and other areas. We will be happy about this,” he said.

President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe’s participation at such international fora was critically important as these were the platforms at which solutions to domestic, regional and international issues are found.

“We have common challenges, Southern Africa is generally seen as an anti-Western region, and I am flattered that you extended (to me) an invitation to visit your forum. For me, this is an opportunity to share the challenges that we face at the national level and at the international level, also from the point of view of interaction with Western countries.

“In addition, this is an opportunity to consolidate and identify areas where we can expand co-operation between our countries and make this co-operation more comprehensive. There is no need to separate from each other, (we) have truly similar points of view on international issues,” he said.

The President outlined some of the areas Zimbabwe needed support, including in consolidating its food security, especially in light of the El Nino-induced drought.

“I am glad to be here. This is an opportunity for me, and I am confident that we will have the opportunity to discuss what individual areas of support exist, where there is a need for additional efforts from a security point of view, from a food security point of view — these are the areas where support is required, for example, agricultural automation, farms and so on.

“But we, as a people, nevertheless felt a desire for independence. In addition, we are independent because there is a desire for leadership, a desire for liberation thanks to your support as well. This was a historical stage,” he said.

President Mnangagwa expressed gratitude for Zimbabwe’s invitation to the prestigious forum.

“On behalf of the people of Zimbabwe, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to you personally. I am very glad that you found the opportunity to receive me. This is a great opportunity for me, I have been looking forward to it because Zimbabwe and the Russian Federation have excellent relations and it is extremely important to expand our interaction,” he said.

President Putin said Zimbabwe’s participation was encouraging as it reflected Africa’s keenness in developing relations with Russia.

“I am glad to have the opportunity to meet with you on the sidelines of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum.

“I am confident that your presence will symbolise the interest of the African continent in developing relations with the Russian Federation, and this is one of our priorities,” he said.

“We have agreed that we will develop our co-operation on both sides. New formats have also been created, in particular, the format of meetings and consultations at the level of Foreign Ministers. This year we intend to hold this event in Sochi in the autumn. We hope that Your representative will also take part in this”.

President Putin said it was encouraging to note that trade between Russia and Zimbabwe was increasing.

Equally encouraging was the unwavering co-operation in the humanitarian sphere and on the international arena.

“Relations between Russia and Zimbabwe developed a long time ago — even during the period of the struggle of your country, your people for independence — and now they continue to develop actively.

“It was pleasant to note that our trade turnover increased several times over the past year, but, of course, we still need to work hard in this regard in order to diversify our ties.

“We have developed very good relations in the humanitarian sphere, in the field of education: 400 young people from your country are studying in Russia, and we are constantly increasing this quota.

“I am grateful to you that we are actively working together in the international arena. Our positions, as they say in such cases, are very close or even coincide on key issues on the international agenda,” President Putin said.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Ambassador Frederick Shava said the two leaders had discussed potential areas of co-operation.

“Yes, we identified maybe six or seven such areas, trade and investment, and the two leaders discussed the importance of improving trade and investment between the two countries. And you know that Russian mining companies have invested in Zimbabwe, with the possibilities of new mineral claims in Matabeleland.

“So they discussed that, and issues surrounding the capabilities and enhancements of those initiatives. With respect to exploration, they said that the Russians had finished some exercise in Zimbabwe, in which they identified 17 areas, particularly in Matabeleland South, for diamond mining,” he said.

“And I think it was very good that they did exchange on this, especially against the background that Zimbabwe supported the Russian Federation’s inclusion in the process of superintending over the diamonds industry worldwide. Russia is now accepted as a member of the Kimberley Process, which will help it a lot in following changes in the world in terms of diamond trade.”


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