4th February 2012: The Russian Federation’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov arrived in Fiji on Wednesday 1st February for his country’s first-ever high-level visit. The Foreign Minister was greeted by a traditional Fijian welcoming ceremony, attended by Fijian Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama.
At the traditional ceremony of welcome, known as “Veiqaraqaravi Vakavanua” Minister Lavrov stated the following:
“Distinguished Prime Minister, dear friends, it is my pleasure to be present here on the hospitable land of Fiji. And thank you very much for your hospitality and for the warm welcome. As far as I understand, during my words with Mr. Prime Minister, this ritual goes back to ancient times when the natives of the island met sailors coming from far away. We have felt the sincerity of your hearts in this ritual. It will be forever enshrined in our memory. Thank you very much, and we will respond with reciprocity. Once again, I thank you very much and I look forward to very interesting and meaningful and promising talks today on the hospitable land of Fiji.”
The Fijian Prime Minister and Minister Lavrov then commenced individual discussions. Minister Lavrov met individually with the Fijian Prime Minister and then with the Fijian Minister of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation, Ratu Inoke Kuabuabola.
A number of topics were discussed, including ways of promoting economic cooperation between the two nations. Pursuing educational assistance and cooperation between Russia and Fiji was one of the issues discussed.
At a press conference afterwards between Mr Lavrov and his Fijian counterpart Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, the head of Russia’s foreign ministry highlighted the need to establish cooperation between both countries in the field of education.
“Today we have stated for the first time a crucial need to get on with active cooperation in the sphere of education which is a very important thing and not a token decision. Because education makes the foundation of people to people contacts”, Mr Lavrov said.
While both countries spoke on proposed areas of interests for bilateral relations, Mr Lavrov acknowledged requests by Pacific Island countries to include education in the field of cooperation.
“We have registered the interests of very many nationals of the PIC countries in sending their students to get educated in the Russian Federation, and we agreed to elaborate on possibility of providing a greater number of bursaries for that purpose”, Mr Lavrov told guests at the press conference.
“We also talked about more specific cooperation on the UN agenda and we agreed that our ambassadors to the United Nations should meet on a regular basis in New York to discuss the current status of things and elaborate on approaches”.
Mr Lavrov’s visit to Fiji follows a meeting with Pacific Island leaders on the margins of the last United Nations General Assembly meet in New York, last year. His visit to Fiji this year is the first high level visit to Fiji from the Russian Federation.
"The Pacific region is today the priority of foreign policy for the Russian Federation," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the press conference following a half-day of talks with Fijian Prime Minister Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama and Fijian Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola.
"The key players are located here," he said.
The meeting in Fiji, the first high-level visit from a Russian official to the country, afforded the Russian Federation the opportunity to strengthen ties with Fiji, as well as meet with numerous other foreign ministers from the Pacific Island Countries.
As Minister Kubuabola said during the press conference, "Fiji is the hub of the Pacific, but we are a part of the global community. We must expand our horizons to new friends and opportunities."
Conversations during the day covered a number of topics, from security to climate change. The economy however was the central issue of discussions. "We've got the common understanding that the priority of the day are the programs and projects that will drive real growth and make the economies of the [Pacific] region even more independent," said Minister Lavrov.
Minister Kubuabola concurred: "By diversifying our relations with such countries as Russia, we are creating greater stability for ourselves. We hope to establish new lines of trade that help diversify the types of job opportunities there are for Fijians."
The meeting resulted in a number of outcomes between Fiji and Russia, including an outline of areas of economic cooperation in which "concrete" next-step proposals would be created, an accord to establish visa-free travel to promote tourism between the countries, and a look at how Russia can support Fiji's contributions to peacekeeping missions around the world.
The Russian Minister concluded by saying, "We seek to find partners in the region, and we would really like to cooperate in a mutually beneficial manner in order to promote our ties and improve visitation in the region. And let me say that we are not making friends against anybody."
Russia has accepted an invitation from Fiji to again meet on the ministerial level next September during the United Nations General Assembly.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation P. O. Box 2220 Government Buildings Suva, Fiji