Madame Ambassador, friends,
The opening of the photo exhibitions dedicated to the 25th anniversary of establishing relations between the Russian Federation and the Republic of South Africa is a landmark event. The first photo exhibition provides a fairly complete picture of this stage of our relations. I say "this stage," because, of course, our relations go much further back to the history of our country providing support to the struggle against apartheid and to the African National Congress. In the most recent historical period, relations have been based on the solid foundation laid during that historical process.
The documents presented here include the Joint Declaration of President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and President of South Africa Jacob Zuma, which enshrines the status of our relations as a strategic partnership. In this regard, I would like to note the role that the outstanding statesman and public figure of modern times Nelson Mandela played in promoting our relations. His contribution cannot be overestimated. We also note that presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, along with their governments and ministers, have advanced our cooperation on the basis of the principles laid down by Mandela.
We have a fairly diversified cooperation mechanism, including the Mixed Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation, the Russia-South Africa Business Council, which includes businessmen of the two states, the Joint Intergovernmental Commission for Military-Technical Cooperation, and the Joint Commission on Scientific and Technical Cooperation.
The ties and contacts between our parliaments and regions of Russia and South Africa are strong and regular. I would like to specifically highlight our interaction in modern ground-breaking industries which underpin scientific and technological progress, primarily, in the nuclear power engineering. We have signed a corresponding intergovernmental agreement on strategic partnership and cooperation in the sphere of nuclear energy and industry. In addition, Roscosmos and the South African National Space Agency have established cooperation. They have already developed specific projects in South Africa, and materials related to these projects can be seen at the exhibition.
I want to draw special attention to the ties between the people of our countries, and cooperation in the humanitarian and cultural spheres. I could go on and on about it. Indeed, there is very close cooperation. I am convinced that it will be even closer and more regular after the Protocol between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Republic of South Africa on mutual abolition of visa requirements for holders of foreign passports enters into force on March 30. This is a big event, which we will celebrate this month.
Also, please note that there is another exhibition of photographs by Russian Ambassador to South Africa Mikhail Petrakov. These photos complement the official exhibition and reveal the stunning nature of South Africa, which fascinates many. I can confirm this, as I have visited many of the places captured in these photographs.
Once again, I congratulate everyone on our shared holiday. I wish everyone all the best, and I hope Russian-South African relations will continue to progress for the benefit of our peoples.
We will now celebrate the occasion with champagne and a cultural programme. I would like to express my gratitude to our South African friends who organised for today's event a performance by a choir of South African students studying in Russia. Unfortunately, this time we can’t reciprocate with a choir of young diplomats to match your gesture, but we will do so when the next anniversary comes around.
In closing, I would like to congratulate all women on the occasion of International Women's Day which is marked tomorrow.