SINGAPORE, November 13. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday started the program of his trip to Singapore with visiting the official residence of the republic’s president, the Istana Palace.
A traditional ceremony of the Russian leader’s official meeting with Singapore’s President Halimah Yacob was held on the square in front of the palace. The anthems of the two countries were played in the presence of the Guard of Honor.
The presidents went to the residence and began their talks behind the closed doors. Putin made a note in the book of honorary guests in the palace.
Later on Tuesday, Putin and the Singaporean president will take part in a ceremony to lay the foundation stone of the Russian cultural center and an Orthodox church in Singapore. In the evening, the Istana Palace is due to host a dinner on behalf of the Singaporean president in honor of the Russian leader.
The Istana Palace was built in 1869 and was used as a residence of the British governor. Since 1965, when the island nation’s independence was declared, the palace has been the residence of the Singaporean president.
Singapore is a parliamentary republic. The head of state is the president, who is elected at the direct general election for the term of six years. Halimah Yacob, Singapore’s first female president, assumed office in 2017.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has been heading the government of the island nation since 2004. He is the son of Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who led the country in 1959-1990 and later served as the senior minister and the minister mentor until 2011.
Putin is paying his first visit to Singapore. This year Russia and Singapore mark the 50th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations. In 2009, Russia’s then President Dmitry Medvedev arrived in the republic on an official visit for the first time in the history of bilateral relations.
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong visited Russia in 2016 to take part in the milestone Russia-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Sochi.
The Kremlin notes that Russian-Singaporean relations are mutually beneficial and constructive. Last year, bilateral trade grew 94% to $4.4 bln. In the first eight months of 2018, the trade turnover reached $2.5 bln, a 6.7% decline compared with the similar period of last year.
Now an effort is underway to sign a free trade agreement between the Eurasian Economic Union and Singapore. The next round of talks on this issue is scheduled for November 2018 in Minsk.
The two countries have been also developing cultural and humanitarian ties. Last year, more than 80,000 Russian tourists visited Singapore and some 7,000 Singaporeans traveled to Russia. More than 4,000 Russians live in the republic on a permanent or temporary basis. In December 2008, a Russian Orthodox Church township was registered in Singapore and a Russia-language Sunday school was opened.
On Wednesday, Putin is due to take part in the Russia-ASEAN summit and in the East Asia Summit on November 14-15. During the three-day visit, the Russian leader will also hold bilateral meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Other contacts may be also held.