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Siberia and Far East to reap benefits of new economic ties with China, insists Lavrov

By Derek Lambie
04 February 2015

Foreign Minister says there is 'enormous potential' for eastern Russia as Moscow forges closer diplomatic bond with Beijing.

'Relations between Russia and China are currently the best in their entire history'. Picture of Krasnoyarsk dam: Semerka.info

Siberia and the Far East will reap the benefits of moves to align Russia to the economic powerhouses of Asia, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said. In a major interview as he met his Saudi counterpart on Tuesday, he insisted there was 'enormous potential' in closer ties with neighbouring countries, particularly China.

The economies of Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East are already on the rise, but their geographical location means they are best-placed to take full advantage of the burgeoning diplomatic relations. Mr Lavrov’s comments come as Moscow continues to align itself with Beijing to overcome sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe over the Ukraine crisis.

The Foreign Minister stressed that Russia was not going to ask for the Western sanctions to be lifted, even though they have had an impact on the economy. Instead, he said new avenues to the east and via Siberia are key to improving the domestic situation.

Mr Lavrov said: 'Russia is becoming more determined to conserve resources, modernize industry and become more self-reliant in terms of our agricultural products.

'We are not going to discuss any criteria for lifting sanctions. Lifting sanctions is the responsibility of those who imposed them. Surely, if the European Union shows common sense, Russia will be ready for constructive dialogue on the issue. Our country is pursuing a multi-vector foreign policy, as stated in the new edition of Concept of the Foreign Policy of Russian Federation, approved by the President in February 2013.

'We are ready to develop mutual and equal relations with all those who show an oncoming willingness to do that. Vladimir Putin has repeatedly stated that interaction with the Asia-Pacific region is a strategic priority for us throughout the 21st century, and that Russia, as an Asia-Pacific power, will take full advantage of the enormous potential of the region’s rapid development, including the development of the Far East and Eastern Siberia'.

He added: 'Thus, we are interested to be actively involved in the integration processes of the region. At the same time, we would like to do this not as an alternative to relations with the EU, but simultaneously with their intensification'.

Foreign Minister says there is ‘enormous potential’ for eastern Russia as Moscow forges closer diplomatic bond with Beijing


Foreign Minister says there is ‘enormous potential’ for eastern Russia as Moscow forges closer diplomatic bond with Beijing

'Siberia and the Far East will reap the benefits of moves to align Russia to the economic powerhouses of Asia'. Pictures: RUSAL, Denis Belevich

Vladimir Putin has actively tried to engage countries in Asia, particularly Singapore, China, and India, to overcome the impact of Western sanctions and stimulate the economy. As evidence of the growing cooperation between Russia and China, 50 agreements were signed during a meeting between Mr Putin and the Chinese President Xi Jinping in May.

The receptacle of the outgoing year includes the final stage of an agreement for a 30-year annual supply of 38 billion cubic meters of gas to China through the eastern sector of the Russian-Chinese border, and the signing of a framework agreement for the supply of an additional 30 billion cubic meters through the western sector.

Chinese firms have also been involved in the proposed large-scale liquefied gas plant at Sabetta, north-east of the Yamal Peninsula.

Last week Mr Putin also announced Vladivostok would become a free port to make the region more attractive to eastern Pacific shipping and trade, while Indian and Chinese firms have been taking stakes in major oil fields in Siberia.

In September, a 10 per cent share in the Siberia’s Vankor oilfield was sold to China’s CNPC for $1billion. But despite the timing of the developing relations between Moscow and Beijing, Mr Lavrov insisted they were not simply a panic measure to overcome the sanctions.

He said: 'Our relations with China are not of an opportunistic nature and are not directed against anyone. We are the two largest states, which historically live in close proximity. In October we marked the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries. Russian-Chinese relations have since come a long way, steadily developing over the past twenty years.

'As the leaders of our countries have repeatedly pointed out, relations between Russia and China are currently the best in their entire history'.

'The reason for such successful development is rooted in the fact that it is based on the mutual consideration of interests, mutual respect, equality, and non-interference in internal affairs'.

Foreign Minister says there is ‘enormous potential’ for eastern Russia as Moscow forges closer diplomatic bond with Beijing


Foreign Minister says there is ‘enormous potential’ for eastern Russia as Moscow forges closer diplomatic bond with Beijing


Foreign Minister says there is ‘enormous potential’ for eastern Russia as Moscow forges closer diplomatic bond with Beijing

Khamar-Daban natural reserve in Irkutsk region, and a street view of Irkutsk. Pictures: Alexey Bezrukov, The Siberian Times

Meanwhile Mr Lavrov played down accusations that Russian and the United States are heading for a new Cold War, blaming Washington for deliberately creating the situation. He said: 'The White House has set a course for confrontation, blaming Russia for all sins in connection with the Ukrainian crisis that they provoked to a significant extent.

'For our part, we are always open for a constructive and fair political dialogue with the USA in both international affairs and on the global stage where our countries bear special responsibility for global security and stability.

'As for the highest-level contacts, they have not been stopped. Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama have met three times this year, and talked ten times on the phone, and these conversations were quite long and were mainly initiated by the White House'.

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