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GUATEMALA CITY, March 26. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov, who will pay a visit to Guatemala on Thursday, will meet with Guatemalan President Otto Perez and Foreign Minister Carlos Morales to discuss prospects for expanding bilateral trade and cooperation in emergency response.
Apart from that, the Russian foreign minister will take part in a meeting of foreign ministers of the Central American Integration System (SICA), an association of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and El Salvador. The meeting is to yield a document on cooperation.
The last visit to Guatemala took place in 2010. The Russian foreign ministry reminds that in April the two countries will mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. "It is a rather promising partner in Latin America for us," the ministry said.
Along with coordinating positions on the international agenda and expanding cooperation in rebuffing drug trafficking, the sides will discuss promising projects in the educational, cultural and legal spheres and in emergency management.
Special focus will be made on expansion of trade, which, according to the Russian foreign ministry, "is lagging behind the exiting potential." Last year, bilateral trade amounted to 73.5 million U.S. dollars. Both Moscow and Guatemala City hope to bring this figure higher up in the near future.
Russians will remember Guatemala thanks to the 119th session of the International Olumpic Committee, which granted Russia the right to host the Olympic Winter Games in the Balck Sea Resort City of Sochi in 2014.
The ministerial meeting in Guatemala will help Russia and the countries of the Central American Integration System to coordinate "common vision and areas of multilateral cooperation," Alexander Shchetinin, the Russian foreign ministry’s Latin America department director, told TASS.
"We maintain very close and rather intensive bilateral relations with the majority of Central American countries. However we would like to look as possibilities for cooperation in the multi-nation format," he said.
As an example of efficient cooperation, the Russian diplomat cited a regional drug police training centre in Nicaragua. Set up in 2012, the centre offers professional enhancement courses for drug policemen from all Central American states. "It is very important, it is practical work that makes it possible to solve absolutely concrete tasks," Shchetinin said. "We would like to see such projects that would be more profitable and interesting to develop on a multilateral basis."
There are some promising areas of cooperation that "might yield big results" through pooled efforts," he noted, adding that such areas might be trade-and-economic and investment cooperation, innovation technologies in public health, cooperation in the area of sports.
Lavrov’s meeting with SICA foreign ministers is expected to be crowned by a joint statement. A well-informed source told TASS that the document would say that Russia might be granted an off-region observer status. Experts note that a joint final document is a landmark step on a path to closer cooperation.
Moscow appreciates the fact that neither of the Latin American states supported the sanction policy against Russia. All these countries clearly declared that such policy was inacceptable for them
"Moreover, in conditions of our decisions on counter-sanctions, they have openly stated their interest to bigger economic presence on our market," the Russian foreign ministry said.
A source in the Russian foreign ministry told TASS that the "factor of sanitary norms" was still in place and it might somewhat complicate talks on expanding Latin American exports to Russia. "Our standards are tougher than those of the United States and Europe, and these standards must be observed," the source said. "Obviously, certain work is needed but we are confident these problems are absolutely solvable."
Russia has been inviting representatives of the Latin American market to food exhibitions, and they accept such invitations.
The Russian foreign minister will have separate meetings with foreign ministers of a number of states on the sidelines of the multinational session. Thus, Lavrov will meet with his Honduran counterpart Arturo Corrales.
Honduran opened its embassy in Moscow in 2013. "We are working on strengthening the legal framework to be able to successfully expand cooperation in various sphere," the Russian foreign ministry said.
The Russian foreign minister’s visit to Guatemala has coincided with a visit to that country by his Argentinian counterpart Hector Timerman. The two ministers will have a brief meeting. They are expected to discuss a possible visit to Moscow by Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, which might be organized in mid-April. Apart from that, the ministers will look at prospects for the implementation of mutually beneficial projects in the energy sector, including possible construction of a hydropower plant by Russian companies.
While in Guatemala, Lavrov also plans to meet with Salvadorian Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez. A source in the Russian foreign ministry told TASS the two ministers would sign an intergovernmental agreement on visa-free travel regime between the two countries.
Alexander Shchetinin, the Russian foreign ministry’s Latin America department director, told TASS that the programme of the Russian delegation provided for another "brief but emotionally-coloured meeting." There is an Orthodox parish in Guatemala, The Monastery of the Holy and Life-Giving Trinity, Lavra of Mambre. Its head, Abbess Ines /Ayau Garcia/, is taking vigorous efforts to popularize the Russian language and Orthodox values in the region. Lavrov will hand over to her a St. George icon.