Lavrov to discuss economic cooperation and regional crises with Sudanese Foreign Minister

12 July 2021


Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks on Monday with Sudanese Foreign Minister Maryam al-Mahdi who is on a working visit to the Russian capital from July 11 to 15. The current visit will be the first trip to Russia for the Sudanese Minister since her appointment to the post.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Moscow expects "a detailed exchange of views on key aspects of Russian-Sudanese multifaceted cooperation, as well as current international and regional problems, with an emphasis on the need to find political and diplomatic solutions to the crisis situations in the Middle East and the African continent".

Russian business involvement

On the agenda of the two ministers' meeting is the search for ways to develop trade and economic cooperation between Moscow and Khartoum. A special role in the development of cooperation between the two countries in this area is assigned to the Russian-Sudanese intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation, the next meeting of which was to be held in 2020, but was postponed indefinitely because of the spread of coronavirus. It is possible that the ministers will be able to revive the work in this area at the upcoming meeting in Moscow.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, at the talks, special attention will be paid to the cooperation between the two countries in the development of mineral resources of Sudan. At the moment a number of Russian economic operators specializing in geology and subsoil use works in the territory of the republic. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at the briefing that the meeting will involve the expansion of opportunities for the participation of Russian companies in the realization of strategic projects on the territory of the African country.

Presumably, the foreign ministers of the two countries will also discuss preparations for the second Russia-Africa summit, scheduled for 2022 in one of the African countries. The first such summit was held in Sochi in October 2019. As a result, Russia signed a number of mutually beneficial agreements and contracts with countries on the African continent, including Sudan.

In addition, the forum had a positive impact on trade cooperation between the two countries. In particular, in 2020 the volume of trade between Russia and Sudan increased by 36.1% compared to 2019. And in the first quarter of 2021, bilateral trade turnover increased by 26.1% compared to the same period in 2020. The next summit is expected to open new horizons for business cooperation between Russia and Sudan.

Regional crises

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the ministers will consider topical regional problems, including crises in the Middle East and the African continent. Lavrov and al-Mahdi are expected to focus especially on the current situation around the construction of Ethiopia's Renaissance hydropower plant on the Blue Nile River. Egypt and Sudan fear that the Ethiopian hydropower plant in the Nile may cause severe water shortages, which will lead to numerous socio-economic and environmental problems, and are trying to fix water standards for themselves and delay the filing of the dam as long as possible.

The three countries are still unable to reach a compromise on the timing of filling and operation of the dam. In particular, Egypt is seeking to lengthen the schedule and conclude a legally binding agreement that will clearly regulate the timing and norms of filling the hydropower reservoir. And Ethiopia, which has a keen interest in filling and operating the dam as soon as possible, is not ready to sign the documents proposed by Cairo. On July 5, Addis Ababa officially notified Cairo and Khartoum of the start of the second phase of filling the Renaissance Dam. Egypt and Sudan stated that they categorically do not accept the steps taken by Ethiopia.

The countries count on Moscow's help in resolving this issue. In particular, during a recent phone conversation with her Russian colleague, al-Mahdi expressed hope that Russia would influence Ethiopia "not to carry out the second stage of filling the water reservoir, which threatens the safety of millions of Sudanese". At the same time, the minister stressed that Khartoum is "committed to a peaceful resolution of the current situation around the dam and to reaching an agreement that will satisfy all parties".

Fighting the pandemic

Ministers will not ignore the issue of combating the spread of coronavirus infection. According to the official data of the Ministry of Health of Sudan, during the pandemic, more than 36,000 cases of infection have been recorded in the country. At the same time, the local health system is struggling to cope with the challenges of the pandemic.

In March, Sudan received a shipment of more than 800,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines under the World Health Organization's COVAX program. While the mechanism did accelerate the pace of vaccination in the country, this amount is clearly not enough to organize mass vaccination and immunize most of the African country's population against the infection. It is likely that the ministers will also consider the issue of supplying Russian vaccines to the country during the negotiations.



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Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry

Based on materials from TASS