Lavrov praises Dhaka’s stance despite US pressure

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov at the joint press conferenceProthom Alo

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov has praised Bangladesh for following an independent foreign policy prioritising the national interest despite pressure from the US and its allies. He said that Russia is keen to strengthen its relationship with Bangladesh, their second largest partner in South Asia after India, at all levels, including political.

Sergey Lavrov reiterated his country’s support for Bangladesh in a press conference on the first day of his visit to Dhaka on Thursday evening in the presence of Bangladesh foreign minister AK Abdul Momen.

He came to Dhaka ahead of the G-20 summit to be held in Delhi, India from Saturday. He will leave for Delhi after paying a courtesy call on prime minister Sheikh Hasina today. Earlier on Saturday evening, he landed in Dhaka from Indonesian capital Jakarta on a special flight.

Then he came straight to the Hotel Intercontinental from the Shahjalal International Airport and held an exclusive meeting with foreign minister AK Abdul Momen there. After that, the two foreign ministers sat in a bilateral meeting for nearly an hour with their delegates. They took part in a joint press conference following the bilateral meeting.

Right at the start of the press conference, Sergey Lavrov called Bangladesh one of the main partners and trusted friends of Russia. He said they have reached a consensus to further enhance the relationships between the two countries at all levels in future. They have discussed the possibility of effectively strengthening the political ties between the two countries.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and AK Abdul Momen speaking at the joint press conference following the bilateral meeting at the Hotel Intercontinental on Thursday
Prothom Alo

The Russian foreign minister said there have been discussions on various issues, including boosting trade and investments, progress in the construction of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, continuation of drilling gas wells of Russian state-owned company Gazprom, supply of liquefied natural gas and other bilateral issues in the meeting. Besides, there have been talks about the permanent outline of selling wheat and fertiliser from Russia in future during the meeting.

Referring to their discussions on the Rohingya crisis, Sergey Lavrov said, “We also have discussed serious issues like the Rohingya crisis. We support ad hoc working group discussions between Bangladesh and Myanmar to resolve this issue. The external forces should limit themselves to ensure a favourable environment to solve the problem. Russia is doing the same with Myanmar and will keep doing so in the future. However, some external forces are using this issue to put pressure on one side and are trying to interfere into internal matters. I believe, both these initiatives will be counterproductive, which is not acceptable at all. Russia is working on this in different international forums, including the United Nations and the ASEAN Regional Forum.”

Sergey Lavrov said Bangladesh followed an independent foreign policy based on national interest, which is commendable.

Referring to the US in response to a question, the Russian foreign minister said, “If we consider the situation, then we will see that they are trying to deter China and isolate Russia in the name of Indian Ocean Strategy, which is actually the extension of NATO internationally.”

Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen said Bangladesh would stick to its foreign policy. He said, “Bangladesh always supports resolving crises through dialogues and discussions. We don’t want any ‘proxy war’ in this region.”

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Asked whether there is any pressure to take a stance against Russia, AK Abdul Momen said, “Our foreign policy is - friendship towards all, malice towards none. We always try to maintain a balanced foreign policy. We prioritise our interests. We always make decisions independently.”

The Bangladesh foreign minister said, “We have raised several issues in our discussions today. The Rooppur power plant was one of the issues. This project will finish more or less on time. We also discussed the Rohingya issue. They (Russia) are with us in this regard.”

“They have proposed that we purchase liquefied natural gas and crude oil from their country,” AK Abdul Momen added.

He also told the Russian foreign minister that Bangladesh has also been affected by the war in Ukraine. “We have highlighted the difficulties in foreign trade that have emerged due to the Russia-Ukraine war. We told them that we want to take the benefit of the Economic Commission in their country. For this, we will need the permission from the other member countries, especially Tajikistan. We have urged them to take the decision together.”