The first official visit to Moscow by Bolivian Foreign Minister Rogelio Mayta has been fruitful. His meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has underlined Russia’s interest in increasing its weight in the Latin American market, and diplomats have tackled a series of new projects that range from the exploitation of lithium to the use of nuclear energy with peaceful purposes. In addition, both ministers have agreed to strengthen cooperation against the coronavirus, where the supply of the Sputnik V vaccine has been another diplomatic success of Moscow to expand its influence on the continent and diversify its exports.
“The Plurinational State of Bolivia is one of Russia’s priority partners in the Latin American and Caribbean region,” Lavrov said. The Russian Foreign Minister stressed that the ties of both countries “have become notably stronger in recent months” and their presidents have spoken by phone up to three times since Luis Arce came to power in November 2020. Also, Russian Foreign Spokesperson, María Zajárova, also highlighted that Bolivia is “one of the priority partners” of the Kremlin and that Rogelio Mayta’s visit has the objective of raising bilateral cooperation “to a qualitatively higher level.”
The meeting had a clearly economic key. “We have a mutual interest in increasing and diversifying trade with large investment projects,” Lavrov added. This will be done at the end of the year by the intergovernmental commission for commercial and scientific cooperation.
Among the most interested companies is Gazprom, present in the Bolivian deposit of Incahuasi for five years and which has estimated reserves of 70.8 billion cubic meters of natural gas. Likewise, the Russian gas company has also revealed that it will go to the public tender for the direct extraction of lithium, a key resource for building batteries for future clean energies and of which Bolivia has the largest reserves on the planet.
Joining the interest of the gas company is that of the Russian state atomic consortium Rosatom, whose nuclear research center in the city of El Alto is in the last phase of construction. “In addition, Rosatom has proposed other areas of cooperation for the peaceful use of nuclear energy for medical, industrial and agricultural purposes,” added the Russian Foreign Minister.
To these projects was added the interest of other companies to invest in Bolivia, such as Russian Railways, and Russia’s great export asset with the pandemic: the Sputnik V vaccine. Bolivia has received almost 2.5 million doses so far and both Ministries agreed to “further expand cooperation in the fight against the virus.” Mayta highlighted the support offered by the Russian alternative against the pandemic. “In this complicated time of the pandemic, the first country with which we were able to subscribe to the possibility of having vaccines against covid-19 was Russia,” the minister recalled.
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In addition to the economy, both ministers addressed the international political plane. Mayta delivered a message to Lavrov from President Luis Arce to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, and the top officials of the diplomacy of both countries agreed that they have “identical positions” and must “strengthen the coordination of foreign policy.”
One of the tools they addressed was the recently created Group of Friends in Defense of the UN Charter, which held its first meeting in Caracas at the end of September with representatives of its 18 member countries, including Syria, China, Belarus, Korea. of the North, Cuba, Iran and Palestine, apart from Bolivia and Russia. Mayta stressed that his country is “pacifist”, while Lavrov advocated “the democratization of international relations based on the UN Charter” and for “respect for international law and non-interference in internal affairs.”
Likewise, both ministers considered it important to consolidate the regional integration processes. To this end, they advocated “a platform as authoritative as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).” This is followed by Russia’s interest in having more weight in the region, as Lavrov himself recognized: “We have looked at ways of achieving greater rapprochement between Russia and the multilateral platforms in the area. We were recently extra-regional observers of the Central American Integration System (SICA), and now we are developing our relationships with Caricom, Mercosur and other structures ”.
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