Zuunii Medee spoke frankly with with I.K.Azizov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia to Mongolia, ahead of President Putin’s upcoming state visit, and discussed bilateral relations and upcoming negotiations.
We have only two neighbor countries and our citizens have always shown a fondness for Russia. Even now, we use the term “brothers”.
It’s probably a tradition from the Soviet Union. I know that in Asia, fraternity is designated as older or younger brothers. I guess that the word “brother” is respectful, but I prohibit using this term, because I don’t want to insult Mongolians by saying something domineering, like “You’re our younger brothers and we are your older brothers.” Therefore, we can’t define our current relations this way.
That’s why we are pretty interested in President Putin’s visit after 14 years.
We are planning President Putin’s visit in accordance with the 75th anniversary of the Battles of Khalkhiin Gol. I’ll stress one more time that we are planning. I’m saying this because we didn’t officially announce the date of the visit. In a diplomatic manner, both sides have discussed the date of the visit and publicizing it seven to ten days in advance, but if diplomats are planning a visit, there is a high probability that the visit will be organized. Bilateral preparations are taking place.
Mongolians are expecting so much from Putin’s visit. For example, setting gas lines from Russia to China through Mongolia. Of course, the Ulaanbaatariin Tunkhaglal (UB Declaration) is an important document. However, we can’t see improvements to economic ties and investment issues. We haven’t implemented any major economic projects. Do you think we will establish an agreement on a project which could be an economic boom?
We have been looking for chances to strengthen our friendly relations. I don’t agree with you that there have been no improvements to bilateral relations since 2000. If we want to use the term “boom”, cancelling 97.8 percent of Mongolian debt can apply. This set the Mongolian economy free and positively influenced drawing in external investment for multilateral projects. In December 2012, both sides contributed 125,000 USD to the railway’s statutory fund. UB Railway is actually a uniquely Mongolian international transport line. Since January, Russia and Mongolia have been actively discussing establishing a negotiation on bilateral exemptions of visas for citizens, for the first of next year. Reaching an agreement on that issue will be a historic event for our relations. Moreover, since 2000, major industries like Erdenet and Mongolrostsvetment made significant technological renovations. So we can’t say that our relations aren’t moving forward, or that they’ve stopped. Also, both sides actively discussed a project for a new railway in 2009 and 2011. If you are asking if we will make a major agreement, as expected by the public, my answer is yes. Also, there will be decisions made that won’t make headlines.
Then will the issue on setting up a gas line through Mongolia be approached again? Or has it already been decided that the gas line from Russia to China will not pass through Mongolia?
As President Putin said, setting the gas line to the east is already obvious, but it won’t pass through Mongolia. Also, we are planning to set up a gas line to China in the west. We are actively discussing the operation of those gas lines with the Chinese side.
What is your opinion on bilateral visa exemptions?
We have information that from Mongolia to Russia, 600,000 people travel in duplicated numbers, whereas from Russia to Mongolia, it’s 100,000 people. From our experience, we’ve noticed that after exempting visa requirements, the number of travelers surges. If we reach this agreement on visa exemption, then multilateral relations will improve in business, humanity, culture, science, education, sport and tourism.
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