Fiji has signed a series of bilateral agreements with the Russian Federation during the first ever visit to Moscow by a Fijian leader.
The Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev witnessed the signing of new protocols on military and technical cooperation; a mutual visa exemption scheme; cooperation in tackling money laundering, the proceeds of crime and the financing of terrorism; public health assistance; and university exchanges between Russia's Far East University and the Fiji National University.
Negotiations will also begin soon on a double taxation agreement and an air services agreement to establish air links between Moscow and Nadi and significantly boost the number of Russian tourists visiting Fiji.
The signings capped a day of intense activity in Moscow, which began when the Prime Minister laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier along the Kremlin Wall in the centre of the Russian capital. This was followed by a meeting between Commodore Bainimarama and Prime Minister Medvedev at his official residence, Gorky House, on the outskirts of Moscow.
The two leaders pledged to strengthen their bilateral relations and improve trade and economic ties. These were officially described as having been largely sporadic and uncoordinated in the past.
In his welcome statement, the Russian leader said he would like to see a celebration of the relationship between Russia and Fiji next year to mark the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1974. To this end, he invited a Fijian delegation to visit Russia next August to mark the occasion.
Prime Minister Medvedev expressed the Russian Government's continuing support for Fiji's contribution to United Nations peacekeeping efforts. One hundred and eighty two (182) Fijian troops left Fiji on Thursday to join the UN contingent in the Golan Heights. Mr Medvedev said Russia wanted to pay particular attention to assisting Fiji with its UN peacekeeping deployments.
After PM Bainimarama had given him an update on Fiji's progress towards the election in September 2014, the Russian Prime Minister said Fiji had the right to be left alone to map its own way forward without being dictated to by other countries. Russia, he said, respected the sovereignty of every nation, big or small, and their right to decide on their development and their future.
The Russian leader also accepted an invitation from the Fijian Prime Minister to send a senior representative to the summit meeting of the Pacific Islands Development Forum in Nadi in August. He indicated that his Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, would be the most likely official to lead the Russian delegation.
Prime Minister Bainimarama is scheduled to meet the Foreign Minister later today (Saturday).