By Carlena Knight
History was made yesterday for Antigua and Barbuda as the twin island nation signed a bilateral agreement with Russia.
The brief signing ceremony took place on Tuesday morning via Zoom. Prime Minister Gaston Browne and Russia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov signed the document aimed at boosting cooperation between the two countries in a number of areas to include trade, economy, social fields, culture, education, sports, healthcare, science and technology, and the prevention and mitigation of natural disasters.
“This agreement will further help to strengthen our bilateral relationship,” said PM Browne.
“Antigua and Barbuda operate on the premise that it is friends of all, enemies of none, and we value our human civilisation. And that is why we are reaching out to countries external of the traditional relations that we would have enjoyed for decades and to ensure that we continue to strengthen our relations,” he explained.
“Russia is one of the leading nations in the world and we felt that it is important for us to strengthen the bilateral relationship so that we can also strengthen the level of collaboration within the international forum.
“Russia has been good to Antigua and Barbuda. When our sister island Barbuda was [devastated] by Hurricane Irma, the Russian Federation donated just about half a million US dollars and we are grateful for their cooperation during that difficult period.
“It is a relationship that is mutually beneficial and I believe that by the execution of this treaty on basic relations that it will further strengthen our relationship and certainly our commitment to the principals of good governance, so this treaty on basic relations is very important to us.”
Lavrov recommitted Russia’s focus through the use of his translator in helping Antigua and Barbuda in several sectors.
“Definitely we are determined to further strengthen the cooperation in emergency response and disaster relief,” he said.
“We will keep implementing cultural and humanitarian exchanges and will interact with personnel training, both for diplomatic services of our countries and for law enforcement. We are committed to developing joint economic initiatives and business investment projects,” he added.
In 2019, both governments signed an agreement to adopt visa-free access for their citizens for up to 90 days. That came into force in October 2019.
In addition to that, Russia has for several years offered training and educational scholarships to Antigua and Barbuda.