Aleksandr Lukashenko meets with Head of Russia’s Karelia Alexander Khudilainen 

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The success of Belarus-Russia alliance is attributed to close ties between the regions of the two countries, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko said on 11 November as he met with Alexander Khudilainen, Head of the Republic of Karelia, the Russian Federation.

Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that Belarus is always happy to host delegations from Russian regions. “Our interstate alliance is a success due to the support provided by Russian regions. I do not see Belarus-Russia relations without good and very close ties with Russian regions,” the Belarusian leader said.

“If not for direct contacts between regions, we would not succeed in promoting bilateral trade, a political dialogue, cooperation in the humanitarian field and culture. If not for cooperation between regions, Russia and Belarus would not be able to pull through this difficult time of the global crisis. No matter what, the unemployment rate in Russia and Belarus does not make up a quarter of population like is the case in the so-called developed European countries. This is also due to the efforts of Russian regions and our country that have established direct contacts,” the Belarusian President said.

Speaking about the Belarusian diaspora in Russian regions and Karelia, the President noted that all heads of Russian regions say that Belarusians do not cause any trouble. “They always say that they are the same as Russians. They are kind, decent and ready to help. I am glad to hear that Belarusians create a good environment where they live,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The head of state remarked that despite the slight slowdown of the mutual trade pace in 2012 an increase of about 20% was registered in January-August 2013. Yet the sides have not yet managed to fully reverse negative trends and reach the precrisis trade volume of $50 million. “It is a small figure and we have to do better than that. Therefore, restoring the level of trade relations should become our top-priority task,” the Belarusian leader emphasized.

The President outlined a number of promising areas and avenues where mutually beneficial cooperation can thrive. Karelia is busy developing its agribusiness and forestry industry, taking care of water service for the population. Belarus has qualified specialists with a long track record in these industries in addition to modern manufacturing and processing technologies. Belarus also makes the necessary machines and equipment, which the relevant industries need. “We are ready to promote cooperation in these areas and invite you to use any achievements of ours,” the head of state said.

Karelia pays close attention to housing construction, reconstruction and development of the motorway infrastructure, the modernization of passenger transportation vehicles. Belarus does the same and therefore a solid foundation is available for manufacturing cooperation and joint work.

“Belarusian construction workers are experienced in designing and building homes, infrastructure, social facilities and other kinds. If your republic needs such experience, we are always ready to offer it to you. Besides, Karelian construction companies may be interested in Belarusian construction materials and equipment. We are also ready to satisfy your need for buses, trolleybuses, and municipal vehicles,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Belarus also want to export modern electric and diesel trains, elevator equipment to Karelia.

The President remarked that Belarus needs stable deliveries of affordable and quality fish and seafood. In turn, Karelia boasts a well-developed fishery industry. “We see rather good prospects for mutually beneficial cooperation in this regard,” the Belarusian leader stated.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that for now despite all the efforts the fish products consumption per capita in Belarus is slightly lower than the recommended norm. “Whatever we may do to resolve the problem here, we just cannot get it right. We could buy all the volumes from you directly and deliver them to Belarus. But without any mediators. Regardless whether it will be a state-run or private company, but we would like to directly buy decent amounts of fish,” the head of state said. “We have processing enterprises. We could use your companies for processing purposes here, too. Among other things we may share some properties in Belarus,” he added.

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that fish import from Karelia is convenient from the logistics point of view and will allow importing fish using the shortest way.

In turn, Alexander Khudilainen agreed that cooperation in this area indeed looked promising. “At present 70% of Russia-made trout comes from Karelia, which possesses unique natural riches,” he said. “At present 52 farms produce close to 22,000 tonnes of trout and in three years we will raise it to 30,000 tonnes. Concrete investment projects exist and we have created the entire process flow”.

Alexander Khudilainen remarked that in summer 2013 the Belarusian ambassador was in Karelia for three days. During the visit productive negotiations were held to advance the mutually beneficial cooperation, including in the area of agriculture and wood processing. “We have to step up work in the forestry industry because today’s technologies and reproduction levels can satisfy no one,” the Head of Karelia said.

In his words, Karelia may also borrow Belarusian agricultural practices. “Nowadays Karelia’s agriculture is not in a very good shape while you have achieved tremendous results in the last 10-15 years”.