MOSCOW, October 11. /TASS/. Commenting on the ties between Russia and Morocco, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev recited the closing line from the 1942 movie Casablanca: "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
In his article, published by the Al-Akhbar newspaper ahead of the Russian premier’s visit to Morocco, Medvedev said the film, which unfolds in Morocco, symbolizes the country in the minds of many Russians.
"Any movie buff knows the final line of this outstanding film: "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." Russia’s friendship with Morocco started a long time ago, and we have every reason to believe that it will strengthen further and develop for the benefit of the people of the two countries," he wrote.
He mentioned another symbol of Morocco in the minds of many Russians - "diamond-shaped stickers with Maroc inscribed on them," which several generations of Soviet and then Russian children found on oranges and tangerines. "This diamond has come to symbolize Russian-Moroccan friendship and a sign of the positive attitude and sympathy for your country," he said.
History of relations
The prime minister said that Russia and Morocco, who will mark 120 years of diplomatic relations next year, have always had "special chemistry" in their relations, and bilateral ties have never taken on an adversarial dimension. He went on to say that Russia has always supported the Moroccan people in their fight for liberation from the colonial rule.
"Looking back, we have every reason to say that in all instances we always sought to engage in dialogue guided by the principle of mutual respect and taking into account each other’s interests," he said.
The visit to Russia by His Majesty the King Mohammed VI of Morocco in 2002, during which the two countries signed the Declaration on Strategic Partnership, marked a new stage in bilateral relations. In September 2006, President of Russia Vladimir Putin paid an official visit to Morocco. During the Moroccan king’s latest visit to Russia in the spring of 2016, the sides declared their determination to continue developing bilateral ties.
"There is great potential for cooperation between Russia and Morocco. We must do everything it takes to make full use of the opportunities we have," Medvedev wrote.
According to the Russian premier, Russia and Morocco have signed more than two dozens of Russian-Moroccan documents on the state, governmental and interagency levels.
"During my visit to the Kingdom, new cooperation agreements are expected to be signed, including instruments on customs operations, agriculture, cultural and industrial," the Russian official said.
Trade and economic cooperation
"The main purpose of my visit is to further enhance trade and economic ties in all areas and promote cooperation on the sectoral level," Medvedev’s article reads. "Of course, we will also discuss topical international and regional issues of mutual interest."
The Russian prime minister described Morocco as one of Russia’s leading trade partners in Africa and the Arab world. According to Russian customs statistics, in 2016 trade increased by 27.2% Russia has long been a major energy exporter for Morocco, and it also exports wheat, ferrous metals, fertilisers, sulphur and other goods. The prime minister also mentioned cooperation in sea fishing, the construction by Russian companies of hydroelectric and hydrothermal plants in Morocco and the 2001 launch of the country’s first satellite from the Baikonur space center that Russia leases from Kazakhstan.
The prime minister also noted the increasing popularity of Moroccan resorts. They were visited by more than 33,000 Russian tourists in 2016, which is four times as in 2015.
Medvedev also said it was particularly important to develop joint projects in advanced technologies. Among other examples of such cooperation, he named automated management system for mining complexes that use the GLONASS satellite navigation technology and a project to create electronic payment system in Morocco which uses Russian equipment and software.
"It is important that we keep up our efforts in promoting our relations in order to find new promising areas for expanding cooperation and benefit from the existing potential of cooperation. We have everything it takes to achieve this objective," Medvedev wrote.
He described the Intergovernmental Mixed Russian-Moroccan Commission on Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation, which held its sixth meeting in July 2017, as "an effective mechanism for promoting business-to-business ties."
Medvedev also said that business associations were an important and driving force in promoting economic relations between the two countries in all areas, and the interest in business-to-business cooperation has been on the rise in recent years.
According to Medvedev, Russia "highly values Morocco’s independent and constructive stance on topical international issues," above all those related to the Middle East and counter-terrorism efforts.
"Russia supports efforts by the Moroccan leadership in countering extremism, maintaining and strengthening harmony in society, including in social and political, as well as economic and cultural affairs," the Russian premier wrote.