BY STAFF REPORTER
Russia and Ethiopia have enjoyed high level of political cooperation over the past few years. This fact is corroborated by the intense exchange of delegations on different levels in recent times. The arrival of the Senator of the Russian Federation Andrey A. Klimov in Addis Ababa is a case in point in this regard.
Revered as a high-level statesman, Klimov is also the Deputy Secretary General of the governing all-Russian party “United Russia”, Chairman of the Party’s Presidium Commission on International Affairs as well as Chairman of the Senatorial Commission for the Protection of the Sovereignty of the Russian Federation.
His visit according to Russian Embassy in Ethiopia is aimed at expanding inter-party relations with Ethiopia but also it aims at creating a platform for establishing ties with political parties of other African states.
The Ethiopian Herald has conducted an exclusive interview with Klimov to learn more about the purpose of his visit as well as the bilateral relation between Russia and Ethiopia and other current affairs. Here follows the full interview:
What is the purpose of your visit to Ethiopia?
This visit was planned more than a year ago, but the coronavirus pandemic disrupted our plans. Nevertheless, the International Commission of “United Russia”, the leading political party of the Russian Federation, continued contacts with our Ethiopian colleagues via the Internet and through the Ethiopian Embassy in Moscow.
At the same time, it was decided to prepare and sign an agreement of cooperation between the parliamentary majority parties of our countries. We expect to sign it with the Ethiopian Prosperity Party during my visit.
In addition, we agreed with our Ethiopian colleagues on the joint preparation for the first international inter-party conference “Russia-Africa: reviving traditions” which is scheduled for the end of March this year. Its major events will be held online from two main venues: Moscow and Addis Ababa.
When developing the program of the March online conference we naturally took into account the fact that the headquarters of the African Union is in the capital of Ethiopia, and my plans include a visit to this esteemed organization during my stay in Addis Ababa.
As a Russian parliamentarian, I am planning to visit my colleagues in the Parliament of Ethiopia and, of course, I expect to meet Russian compatriots living in your country.
From my childhood I knew about the Ethiopian roots of Alexander Pushkin, the father of the literary Russian language of today. I would like to see the monument to our world-renowned writer in his ancestral homeland of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is conducting an operation to restore law and order in the north of the country. How has Russia, as a long-time friend, viewed the measures taken by Ethiopia to maintain its territorial integrity and rule of law?
Russia recognizes that the situation in northern Ethiopia in Tigray state a purely internal matter. Therefore, the interference of third parties is unacceptable, whatever pretexts they may use. In accordance with the UN Charter, Russia has advocated and still advocates the territorial integrity of States and respect for each country’s national sovereignty.
History, including the events of the last decade, has many examples where illegal foreign interference in the internal affairs of states has led only to chaos, economic degradation, falling living standards of people and disregard for universally recognized human rights. The events in Libya in Africa, Syria in the Middle East and Ukraine in Europe only proves that.
As the Chair of the Russian Senatorial Commission for the Protection of the Sovereignty of our country, I can say that Russia itself has consistently repelled unlawful attempts to interfere from abroad in our strictly internal affairs.
As we condemn such practices around the world, we are now intensively working on a draft concept for an international convention on countering interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states. Colleagues from many countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America are already joining this work. We expect that colleagues from the FDRE will also support it.
How are Russia and Ethiopia promoting each other’s interests in the international arena?
It is no secret that any state, whether Ethiopia or Russia, first and foremost seeks to secure its own interests in international affairs. And yet, our countries and peoples have long-standing relations of friendship, mutual respect and mutual assistance. Our positions on many global problems are close or fully coincide, and therefore we can always rely on each other’s support.
We have consistently advocated the strengthening of just and democratic principles in international relations, strict observance of the UN Charter, the search for collective responses to major challenges and threats, and respect for each nation to determine its own future.
Our countries coordinate their actions at the UN. We are grateful to our Ethiopian partners for their support of Russia’s most important initiatives. One evidence of this interaction was the resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly in November 2020 “Combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to the escalation of contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”. Fifty-eight countries, including Ethiopia, have co-sponsored this document.
We uphold the primacy of fundamental UN principles when discussing issues of concern to Africa, including the reform of the UN Security Council. An important element of our cooperation in international affairs is each other’s continued support in elections to the governing bodies of international organizations.
Russia and Ethiopia recognize that the resolution of emerging crises, including those in Africa, must be guided by international law and all possible means of peaceful settlement must be applied, making greater use of the principle “African solutions to African problems” on the continent.
In what way is Russia contributing to Ethiopia’s economic ambitions?
Although the political interaction between our countries is at a high level, at the same time it is necessary to consistently reinforce it with more mutually beneficial steps in the economic sphere.
Recently, economic growth rates in Africa, including Ethiopia, have steadily exceeded the global average. Ethiopia’s performance was impressive: The economy grew at a rate of nearly 10 percent per year for the last 10 years before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Thanks to the country’s economic and political reforms, improvements in the legal framework, and the introduction of best practices, the country has seen a positive change in its business climate and a major structural change in its economic structure.
The investment attractiveness of Ethiopia is growing, not only in traditional sectors, but also in the areas of transport, manufacturing, high technology and telecommunications. The rapid growth of the population offers the prospect of a significant increase in the capacity of the domestic market.
As we see the positive changes taking place in the country, we welcome the Ethiopian government’s continued reform course. The Economic Development Plan of Ethiopia, adopted last year, seems especially ambitious and promising. I hope that the Russian business community will take the most active part in its implementation.
The plans for cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy, hydropower, industry and many others prove of the validity of these hopes. By the way, a business mission from St. Petersburg is in Addis Ababa these days. It includes representatives of several large enterprises of our country.
What conditions must be met for the successful implementation of the peaceful nuclear energy development deal between Ethiopia and Russia? What difficulties may Ethiopia encounter in this process?
Undoubtedly, the agreement between the governments of Russia and Ethiopia on the peaceful use of nuclear energy and its ratification is a big step forward in relations between the two countries.
The agreement, in addition to building a solid legal basis for further cooperation in this area, also provides for cooperation in accounting and control systems for
nuclear materials, radioactive substances and radioactive waste, basic and applied research in the peaceful uses of atomic energy, production of radioisotopes and their industrial, medical and agricultural applications, and cooperation in use of radiation technology, nuclear medicine and training.
This agreement opens new prospects for collaboration, for example, in the field of education, because, firstly, highly qualified specialists are crucial for this branch and Russian universities have enough experience to train from scratch such specialists for your country’s nuclear industry.
Representatives of some Russian universities have already started selecting candidates among high school graduates in Ethiopia. The training cycle includes at least 4 years of bachelor’s degree and 2 years of master’s degree. Ideally, if all terms and procedures are observed, in 6 years we will see the first specialists who will work for the benefit of their country in the nuclear industry.
Secondly, there is the legislative base. The agreement has created a common legal field, on the basis of which the additional agreements will be concluded in specific areas, which will eventually lead to the creation of the Center for Nuclear Science and Technology (CNST) and, in the future, to the construction of a nuclear power plant. However, one should be prepared for the fact that this process is rather long and capital-intensive.
Yet, before turning to concrete actions it is important to create a favorable atmosphere for development of the nuclear industry in the country, namely, to create a positive image of this sector in the eyes of the common people, to inform the population about the benefits of the industry and the opportunities it provides.
In short, there is a huge amount of work to be done. The concrete steps in its framework are clearly fixed in the Road Map signed by Rosatom and the Ministry of Innovations and Technologies of FDRE.
Russia has been taking no sides in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam dispute, while some influential powers are engaged in favoring Egypt. How dangerous is their intervention, will it help to reach a deal on the matter among Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan?
The official position of Russia on this issue remains unchanged – there is a need to find a mutually acceptable solution through a dialogue between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan, taking into account the interests of each side and strictly complying with international law.
Russia is in favor of continuing negotiations; we see them as the only possible and legitimate way to resolve the dispute. We believe that no one other than the countries sharing Nile waters will be able to find the right solution. On the contrary, an excess of advice from outside may create an imbalance in the negotiation process.
That is why the parties must resist any emotionality and external influence and proceed with calm and restrained dialogue. I have already mentioned the consequences of interference by third parties.
Russia holds an important position in BRICS. Does Russia promote the African agenda in any way, or provide financial or technical support to developing countries?
The development of relations with the BRICS countries is a priority of Russia’s foreign policy. BRICS is an interstate structure the main task of which is to develop cooperation among its members in trade and economic, financial, humanitarian and cultural spheres, strengthen multilateralism in global politics and promote the common interests of the BRICS countries on the international arena.
The five states are united by common principles and similarities in their positions on most key global problems. This association, which provides one-third of the world’s GDP and accounts for 42% of the world’s population, is playing an increasing role in international affairs.
Today, BRICS has a large number of partners among developing countries, including on the African continent, and the African track was and remains among the external priorities of Russia, which held the BRICS presidency in 2020.
The “African agenda” of BRICS provides assistance to the countries of the continent in solving problems in such spheres as sustainable development, energy and food security, mutually beneficial trade, infrastructure development, agriculture, technology and innovation, health, education, crisis and conflict management.
By the way, the BRICS has a party dimension. Last October, a round table of the main parliamentary parties of the BRICS countries was held on the margins of the SCO+ international Internet forum.
We also meet periodically with our party counterparts from China, India, South Africa and Brazil in a bilateral format and on the platforms of various international organizations, including the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
The BRICS countries are known to be important investors for the continent. Africa’s trade with the BRICS countries is growing faster than its trade with other traditional partners. Russia is still somewhat behind the other members of the association in terms of cooperation with Africa, but the situation is changing for the better. You may have heard the phrase “Russia is coming back to Africa” – it is true.
What is the role of Ethiopia in strengthening Russian-African cooperation?
As I have already mentioned, Ethiopia is a long-standing partner and friend of Russia, tested by time and common trials. Undoubtedly, it plays an important role in the development of bilateral relations and Russia’s interaction with the entire African continent. It is not for nothing that Addis Ababa is called the diplomatic capital of Africa: the headquarters of the African Union, the UN Economic Commission for Africa and many other international organizations are located here.
We actively cooperate with these organizations, including on issues of Russian-African dialogue. Even my visit here as a representative of both the Federation Council of Russia and the United Russia Party demonstrates the multifaceted nature of our cooperation with Africa, and Ethiopia is rightly at the heart of it.
Your country, a co-founder of the United Nations, the African Union, the Non-Aligned Movement and many other respected international organizations, enjoys well-deserved authority on the world stage.
We in Russia are confident in the great and bright future of your country. The first Russian-African Summit held in Sochi in October 2019 with the participation of Russian President V. Putin is a good confirmation for it.
I cannot help noting that Moscow considers the international inter-party conference “Russia-Africa: Reviving Traditions” I mentioned above as an important step in the preparation of the next Summit in 2022.
The Ethiopian Herald February