Comfortable political venue for meetings – useful in many respects

A major summit always represents a good opportunity for multi-lateral contacts and is a perfect venue for bilateral meetings
A major summit always represents a good opportunity for multi-lateral contacts and is a perfect venue for bilateral meetings. On his arrival in Istanbul, Alexander Lukashenko met the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Minsk has suggested that Ankara invigorate the agenda of Belarusian-Turkish collaboration across a range of spheres, with particular focus placed on trade and economics.

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko at Organisation of Islamic Co-operation Summit

“It’s high time we update the agenda of co-operation and adjust the ‘roadmap’ of our relations,” noted Mr. Lukashenko while addressing his Turkish counterpart and stressing that Belarus is open to co-operation.

The two leaders have agreed that the issues discussed at the meeting would get practical development during the forthcoming meeting of the Belarusian-Turkish intergovernmental commission in May. In particular, the presidents talked over the prospects for increasing Turkish investment in Belarus and more active interaction in tourism, including through increasing the number of flights between the two countries.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan noted that such high and top-level meetings make a big contribution to the development of bilateral relations. He especially accentuated the role of Belarus as an island of stability in the region and confirmed his readiness to pay a visit to Belarus. The agenda of this event is to be discussed during the forthcoming meeting of the intergovernmental commission.

Mr. Lukashenko thanked Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the invitation to the summit of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, emphasising the importance for Belarus to attend such a large-scale forum. According to the President of Belarus, the summit will also promote the establishment of new contacts to boost trade-economic co-operation with a number of countries.

The Organisation of Islamic Co-operation is an influential international organisation that comprises over 50 countries with the population of more than one billion people. Approaches and priorities of Belarus and the OIC in the international scene coincide a lot particularly in such areas as family values, religious tolerance, sustainable development, and human rights. This definitely facilitates the development of substantive and constructive dialogue.

Negotiations on the sidelines of the forum left no doubt that Belarus is focusing on mutually beneficial contacts, with concrete results. The proposal of Kazakhstan to use its well-developed transport infrastructure to trade with China, voiced during Alexander Lukashenko’s meeting with his Kazakh colleague, Nursultan Nazarbayev, is a good example. The heads of the two states chatted, discussing various issues, including behind the scenes of the international forum, with efficient results. Mr. Lukashenko began the bilateral meeting by saying, “We’ve already held long negotiations, discussing international and local problems and agreeing your visit to Belarus and my arrival in Kazakhstan.”

In turn, Mr. Nazarbayev reminded that Astana is to host a top-level event in the EAEU format in late May, saying, “We’ll have a separate meeting during this event and an opportunity to synchronise watches. We’re brotherly countries, with common allies, sharing common goals and aspirations.”

Belarus shares many goals with Middle East countries. During the meeting with Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the President discussed various aspects of Belarus-Qatar co-operation, especially economic liaisons and problematic global economic issues.

Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani noted that strategic relations with Belarus are very important for Qatar. He confirmed the readiness of Qatar to bolster all-round co-operation with Belarus.

One more ambitious task was announced during another Istanbul meeting, between Mr. Lukashenko and Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla. “We’re increasing our trade turnover more and more. However, I think that our best years lie ahead. I’m convinced that we’ll expand trade turnover or, as planned, will cross the line of $1bn.”

The opening of the Indonesian Embassy to Belarus should facilitate this, especially as Indonesia desperately needs trucks and other machinery, whose production is well established in our country. We expect the visit of the Indonesian leadership to Minsk to explore bilateral benefits. Mr. Lukashenko notes, “As a result of this visit, we could increase our trade turnover and expand the list of goods our countries trade.”

Jusuf Kalla has confirmed interest in developing friendly bilateral relations and active collaboration across a wide range of areas.

Belarus’ readiness to take an active role in restoring the Afghan economy was a keynote of the meeting between Alexander Lukashenko and Afghanistan Prime Minister Abdullah Abdullah. Moreover, because of historical circumstances, Belarus feels responsibility to the Afghan nation. “We’re ready for co-operation with Afghanistan across the board. There are absolutely no forbidden topics,” assured the Belarusian Head of State.

Meanwhile, over the past year, Belarus and Pakistan have managed to set up strategic partnership. During his meeting with Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain, Mr. Lukashenko admitted that he is amazed at Pakistan’s ability to solve serious issues, including the organisation of inter-state visits at top level. Mamnoon Hussain confirmed eagerness to expand bilateral co-operation: regarding visits and signing of important agreements.

Evidently, the President’s work in Istanbul was intensive and efficient.

From the speech of the President of Belarus at 13th Summit of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation:

I’m representing the country where Christians, Muslims, Jews, and representatives of other religious denominations have been living in peace with each other for centuries. All of them have different paths to church. And we guarantee this path to them. We’re proud of the fact that there have never been any interethnic or religious conflicts in Belarus. It was made possible because of the consistent promotion of the ideas of tolerance, peaceful and harmonious co-existence of various nationalities and religious denominations.

It’s deeply symbolic that I can tell you about an important event for all Belarusian Muslims at this high-profile forum in Istanbul. The construction of the large Cathedral Mosque will be completed in the Belarusian capital, which lies in the centre of Europe, in the near future.

Belarus shares the OIC’s universal principles of non-interference with the domestic affairs of sovereign nations and respect for their territorial integrity. Belarus is against using force and is in favour of resolving conflicts by peaceful means.

The concurrence of Belarus and OIC members’ views on many fundamental matters enables us to work together to promote traditional family values, defend the versatility of ways of progressive development, step up efforts in the fight against human trafficking, and co-operate within the framework of the global initiative called the Alliance of Civilisations.

I would like to say that we have many other contact points.

I’m convinced that we’re capable of turning the conventional religious borders that span huge territories and affect millions of human lives in the 21st century into the borders of friendship instead of confrontation. I think everyone will agree that the number of opportunities for mutually beneficial co-operation greatly exceeds today the number of real or contrived contradictions.

It’s obvious that the formation of the truly multi-polar world is impossible without Muslims. The contours of this multi-polar world are shaping today. Alongside with other important geopolitical players, the Islamic world can become one of the pillars of stability and security, the driving force of progressive and sustainable development on the planet.

There are preconditions for it. The Organisation uniting 57 countries with the population of more than one billion has a huge political and economic potential. This potential can be unveiled by ensuring unity in the Muslim world, surmounting internal disagreements.

I believe that taking into account the advanced level of our trustful relations with many Muslim countries and the affinity of views on fundamental international matters granting the OIC observer status to Belarus would be the next logical step that would bring about new opportunities for advancing mutually beneficial co-operation.

Thank you for attention.

By Vasily Kharitonov
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