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AMBASSADOR'S ARTICLES

11.12.2013

Ambassador Yakovenko on the achievements in the Russian-British relationship in 2013 (Interfax)

The events of the passing year have confirmed that normalization of our bilateral political dialogue has become a stable and steady trend. Our relationship has been developing in a sustainable, dynamic manner, moving in the right direction, i.e. serving the mutual interests of Russia and the UK, our citizens. And most importantly, we share the philosophy that strong multilateral diplomacy should be supplemented by robust bilateral relationships, strong enough to withstand the impact of any political conjuncture.

The political leaders set the right, result-oriented tone for our bilateral relations. Over the last year and a half, President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister David Cameron have held six personal meetings and have regularly spoken on the phone.

A new mechanism, that of the Strategic Dialogue of Foreign and Defence Ministers, has been launched. The first “2+2” meeting was held in March in London, while the second one is scheduled to take place next spring in Moscow.

Russia and the UK have continued an active dialogue on topical global issues at other levels, including consultations between the Foreign Ministries. By tradition, concurrence of our positions on a number of topics was accompanied by serious differences on others. At the same time, wherever interests of the international community so required and the situation allowed, the differences did not prevent us from reaching agreement, in particular, on such important problems as the Iranian nuclear programme and political settlement of the Syrian crisis. Positions of Russia and the UK are especially close on such pressing international issues as safeguarding stability and security in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of foreign military presences and the Middle East peace process.

Permanent members of the UN Security Council, Moscow and London, together with the other P-5 partners, pursued an agreed policy regarding the reform of the UN and the Security Council. The nuclear power status dictated close approaches of Russia and Great Britain to the matters of nuclear disarmament, including within the context of breaking the deadlock at the Disarmament Conference and efforts to launch a conference on establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East.

Russia’s G20 presidency and the UK presidency of the G8, as well as Russia’s G8 presidency in 2014, have provided another dimension to our cooperation in global affairs. The priorities and programmes of these presidencies have been subject to synergy to achieve maximum efficiency of collective work and ensure continuity.

Moscow and London continue intensive efforts to renew the legal framework of our bilateral relationship – agreements on military technical co-operation and mutual recognition of higher education certificates are discussed. We view the decision of the British side to resume contacts between the special services to ensure security of the 2014 Sochi Olympics as another positive development in our relations.

Dynamic growth has been witnessed in trade and economic cooperation. The UK has remained one of Russia’s leading partners in trade (with mutual turnover of USD 17.5bn in three quarters of this year) and investment (with UK cumulative investment in Russia reaching USD 24bn, and Russia’s investment in the UK coming to USD 9bn).

To cite the most significant economic events of the year, I would like to mention the 10th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for Trade and Investment chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Vince Cable in Moscow on 12 November, and the first meeting of the Russian-British High-Level Energy Dialogue led by Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich and Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey in London on10 June.

Considerable attention has been focused on energy cooperation. The successful deal between Rosneft and BP in March, including exchange of assets, became one of the milestones in the development of the Russian market. Active effort is aimed at two promising areas – a possible increase of direct supply of Russian natural gas to the UK and enhancement of nuclear energy cooperation with a potential entry of Russian advanced technologies into the UK market.

On 18 September, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich and Secretary Owen Paterson endorsed our Veterinary services’ agreement to lift the temporary ban on the import of UK beef and lamb by-products to Russia. The ban on beef and lamb had been lifted earlier.

Technological and innovative cooperation is a relatively new area of our economic cooperation, and both parties recognize the potential behind expansion of partnership relations between such companies. One of the ideas is to create a Russia-UK Venture Forum, which would serve as a platform for interested companies and investors. A programme of cooperation for the near future was endorsed by the 11th meeting of the bilateral Committee on Scientific and Technical Cooperation held on 16-17 October in London under the chairmanship of Minister of Education and Science Dmitry Livanov and Secretary of State Vince Cable.

Financial cooperation is another important area, including joint work on creation of a Moscow International Financial Centre (MIFC), as well as active participation of British companies in preparations for sporting events like the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, the Summer Universiade in Kazan and the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Increasing attention is paid to regional cooperation; both sides continue to promote contacts between small and medium-size businesses.

The potential of the UK as a promising business partner, in my view, is bolstered with the accelerated economic growth over the last few months and the restored entrepreneurial and consumer confidence. I believe that there are things for Russian companies to pay attention to with a view to expanding the horizons of their operations in the UK.

The cultural cooperation has also been actively developing. Moreover, the traditionally substantial exchanges in this area are to be brought to a higher level. In March, in accordance with the decision of our leaders, the Foreign Ministers issued a joint statement on holding a Russia-UK cross-year of culture in 2014. The preparations have now entered the final stage, with plans having been made for over 250 events. On 12-13 November, Deputy Prime Minister Olga Gologets, Chairperson of the Russian Organising Committee, visited London to discuss the details of the Russian and UK programmes of events with Lord Speaker Baroness D’Souza. The logo of the Year was approved and presented to the media.

The historical and emotional dimension of our relationship is of crucial importance. Having established the Arctic Star medal, the UK Government granted permission for the British veterans of the Arctic Convoys to be awarded the Russian Ushakov Medal. In 2014 our countries will take part in commemorative events to mark the centenary of World War One, in which we were also allies.




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