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MOSCOW, February 16. /TASS/. Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez said in an exclusive interview with TASS First Deputy Director General Mikhail Gusman that he planned to discuss cooperation in the UN Security Council, and the war on terror, at a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on Thursday.
"Our current visit to Russia is due to two circumstances. First, we want to discuss certain political issues with President Putin as one should not forget that Uruguay is a member of the UN Security Council now and therefore we need to maintain dialogue with one of the most powerful countries in the world," Vazquez stressed.
"We also want to discuss economic relations between our countries, namely the issues of developing trade, attracting investment from Russia and some other matters. So, we have come with great expectations!" he emphasized.
The Uruguayan leader said the parties will discuss cooperation on the international arena, including within the framework of the United Nations.
"For several years already, Uruguay has been calling for reforms within the UN," Vazquez said. "Second, in the UN Security Council my country adheres to the same principles of its foreign policy throughout its history - that is respect for international law, peaceful settlements to conflicts, respect for other nations and avoiding combat actions, which, unfortunately, are conducted in the world today, and uncompromising fight against terrorism, discrimination, enhancing solidarity and tolerant environment."
"Uruguay is a very small country. Russia is a huge country. During our conversation with Mr. Putin we hope to learn about the president’s position and the country in general on these issues, but I’m sure that such principles and values as freedom, national sovereignty and democracy are equally shared by our countries," the president noted.
The possibilities to further improve relations between Russia and Uruguay have not been used to the fullest, as prospects are good in various economic sectors, the investment sector and the humanitarian sphere, the president went on.
"I believe that our relations could be improved in every sphere," said Vazquez, who is currently on an official visit to Moscow. "If we take medicine (knowing that I was a doctor in the past), then we will see that Russia has made much progress in this field not only improving doctors’ skills but also producing superior medical equipment. As far as my specialty, radiotherapy, is concerned, Russia is undoubtedly the leader in using this method for treatment as well as in producing radiotherapy equipment," the Uruguayan president said.
According to Vazquez, Uruguay is gradually becoming "a door leading to the Latin American region." "Nowadays, Uruguay stands out among Latin America and Caribbean countries as having the highest per capita income and the best distribution of wealth," the president pointed out. "We haven’t been affected by the economic downturn like our neighbors, even large countries, have been facing, because due to our policies we are independent and we are now the second country in the region, following Chile, that enjoys the largest amount of foreign investment. Smart money is flowing both into the industrial and the service sectors."
"Another reason for our economic growth is that Uruguay is the safest country in Latin America," the president went on to say. "Tourists visit our country, investors are active and so we continue to grow not wanting to stop where we are now. This is why we have come to Russia: to tell Russian investors about our resources and to show them that Uruguay is a country with a business-friendly climate."
While speaking on the prospects of expanding humanitarian cooperation, the president of Uruguay emphasized the need to step up student exchanges and strengthen bilateral cultural ties. "In Uruguay, we strongly support our National Sodre Ballet which is one of the most significant performing arts groups in the country. While Russia’s cultural traditions are centuries old! Cultural exchange would help us a lot," Vazquez added.
"The only field where we will remain rivals forever, is football," he joked. "I am sure that Uruguay will play an important role in the upcoming World Cup. Who knows, maybe Russia and Uruguay will face each other in the final. I am always ready to visit Russia because I love the country very much, but if such a final takes place for real, I will surely visit!" the Uruguayan president stressed.
Mercosur, or the Southern Common Market, is one of Uruguay’s foreign policy priorities, Vazquez said.
"For a country as small as Uruguay, it is extremely important to be a part of the region and have access to a platform of international cooperation," Vazquez explained. "We believe that in a globalized world, even larger countries need to be integrated on a regional level. This is why Mercosur is one of our foreign policy priorities."
"During these 25 years of ups and downs we have seen a lot, we have been through good times and not-so-good times. Our region is asymmetrical. This issue has been addressed in various ways," the Uruguayan president added.
According to Vazquez, Mercosur member states are deeply convinced that the bloc "needs to try to facilitate free trade agreements - with the European Union, for instance." Vazquez stressed that the presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay along with him "intend to complete the ongoing talks on sealing such agreements with the EU." "We will see what will become of it," the president of Uruguay stated.
Mercosur is South America’s largest trade and economic bloc, founded on March 26, 1991, when the presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay signed a document outlining the tasks of the new customs union and common market of the four countries. Mercosur aims at facilitating the economic growth of its member states as well as strengthening the sub-region’s economic competitiveness. In 2006, Venezuela joined the founding countries becoming a Mercosur member. However, in early December 2016, the founding states informed Caracas that its membership had been suspended since Venezuela was unable to fulfill the obligations it had pledged to implement when joining the bloc.