Today, June 12, my country celebrates Russia Day. First commemorated in 1992, it one of the youngest holidays in the Russian Federation. This holiday reflects not only the major democratic and economic transformations that have begun since then, but also the entire historical path of the Russian state which has existed for over 11 centuries.
On this day I would like to share with you my vision of present Russia-Cambodia relations and take the opportunity to express personal affection to this unique country.
First of all I would like to say that I am happy to be in Cambodia again, now as ambassador. I was here in the end of 1980s just before graduating from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations where I studied the Khmer language, history, culture and religion.
I expected a lot, but the reality surpassed my expectations. I was charmed by the beauty of Cambodia’s nature, and the hospitality and sincerity of it’s people. Before my arrival in Cambodia in the beginning of this year, I thought about the huge changes and progress that had been made here over the past 30 years. And I was happy to see that one thing remained unchanged – mutual understanding and trust between our countries. A month ago, on May 13, Russia and Cambodia marked the 58th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations. We have a long history of solid friendship: the USSR always gave broad economic and military-technical support and assistance to Cambodia. However, after perturbations connected with disintegration of the USSR in 1991, relations with countries in Southeast Asia were challenged by the complexity of the new transition period. But by the middle of the ’90s, bilateral efforts were made to restore Russia-Cambodia relations and form landmark political, legislative and economic foundations. In 1995, Russia and Cambodia signed the Joint Declaration on the Foundations of Friendly Relations, the Intergovernmental Agreement on Trade and Economic Relations, the Intergovernmental Agreement on Cultural and Scientific Cooperation and the Protocol on Consultations between the ministries of foreign affairs of both countries. By the beginning of the 21st century, Russia-Cambodia relations began to take a clear shape, and the dynamics have been overwhelmingly positive.
In terms of politics, Russia and Cambodia as before share the same vision of major global and regional issues. We carry on an open, sincere and constructive dialogue on the whole range of the agenda of international relations, including security issues in Southeast Asia, regional integration and cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Trade and economic cooperation between Russia and Cambodia is on the rise and our countries have a substantial potential for active development. In 2006, bilateral trade turnover between our countries amounted to $10.8 million. By 2013 that figure had reached $133.2 million. This year, in January alone, trade between our nations was valued at $10.9 million – a 90 per cent increase compared with January 2013.
Not only are we seeking to broaden our economic ties and investigating long-term investment prospects with our Cambodian partners, we are also committed to finding mutually suitable agreements and ways of resolving existing issues. One of the tools that help us keep in close contact is the Russia-Cambodia Intergovernmental Commission on Trade-Economic and Scientific and Technological Cooperation, which was established in 1997.
Together with the increase of bilateral trade, the diversification of imported and exported goods is vital to stimulate investment activity. The conclusion of an intergovernmental agreement on encouragement and reciprocal protection of investments, which we hope will happen this year, would be a tremendous driver for further success.
Cambodia is becoming more popular among Russian tourists – despite the far distances and the fact we have yet to complete an agreement between our countries on direct air traffic. In 2013, over 131,000 Russian citizens visited this Kingdom of Wonder. That’s a more than fourfold increase since 2010, when about 30,000 Russians toured in this country.
I am proud to tell say that in February a very important and long-awaited event for the growing Russian diaspora in Cambodia took place – the ceremonious laying of the foundation stone of Orthodox churches in Sihanoukville and in Siem Reap. There are plans to build a church in Phnom Penh as well.
We are going to maintain and develop a tradition of cooperation in the sphere of education. More than 8,000 Cambodians have studied in the USSR and Russia. Many of them now hold high positions in governmental structures of Cambodia.
Summarising the above, I would like to emphasise that Russia-Cambodia relations are becoming more and more dynamic, and the trends of recent years prove this. But we have even more work ahead, and I do hope that our joint efforts will result in highly effective and fruitful cooperation in many spheres for the benefit of our two countries.
Dmitry Tsvetkov is the ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Kingdom of Cambodia.