INTERVIEW - Egypt reliable partner in ME, Africa even in difficult geopolitical conditions: Belarus ambassador

Amr Yehia , Tuesday 9 Apr 2024

Ambassador of Belarus to Egypt Sergi Terentiev said in an exclusive interview with Ahram Online that his country has always considered Egypt a traditional and reliable partner in the Middle East and Africa and remains so even in difficult geopolitical conditions.

Belarus ambassador
Ambassador of Belarus to Egypt Sergi Terentiev speaks to Aharm Online's Amr Yehia

 

Ambassador Terentiev added that restoring the previous high dynamics of bilateral relations and planning several high-level events are at the top of his diplomatic agenda.

Ahram Online: What are the work priorities on your diplomatic agenda in Egypt? 

Ambassador Terentiev: I see the purpose of my diplomatic mission in Egypt as strengthening relations between our friendly countries, searching for new promising directions and formats of interaction per the potential of our countries and the realities and needs of the modern changeable world. 

Belarus has always considered Egypt a traditional and reliable partner in the Middle East and Africa. It remains so, even in difficult geopolitical conditions. 

Mutual visits of the two states’ heads have created a solid basis for the progressive development of bilateral relations in all areas. We have significant achievements in trade and industrial cooperation, including the implementation of joint projects, and in the scientific, technical, and educational fields. 

We are restoring the previous high dynamics of bilateral relations and planning several high-level events. In November 2023, we held a regular meeting of the Belarusian-Egyptian Joint Trade Commission and identified current areas of cooperation for the medium term. 

In February 2024, the seventh round of political consultations at the level of deputy foreign ministers of Belarus and Egypt was held in Cairo. 

We intend to further intensify our contacts with Egypt, in the field of political dialogue and to strengthen trade, economic, and business cooperation.

Therefore, our bilateral agenda is now busy. 

AO: Political and diplomatic relations enjoy cooperation. Can you shed light on them and is there joint coordination towards international and regional issues?

Ambassador Terentiev: Diplomatic relations between our countries have been developing smoothly and progressively for more than 30 years.

The positions of Belarus and Egypt on most issues of the global and regional agenda are similar or very close to each other: first of all, issues of peace, security, and stability in our regions. Belarus and Egypt aim to build a genuine multipolar world and a fair international order. We stand for constructive dialogue on all, even the most sensitive, global issues. Our countries oppose unilateral discriminatory measures and sanction policies against sovereign states. 

Additionally, I would like to highlight that the Republic of Belarus strongly condemns terrorism and the brutal terrorist attack in Crocus City Hall. This situation has directly affected the Belarusian people. Belarusian citizens also were among those killed by the terrorists.

We support new formats of interstate cooperation at the global and regional levels. We welcome Egypt's entry into BRICS. Belarus is also interested in becoming a full member of this international association. This organization strives to form a truly multipolar world and build a fair system of economic cooperation based on the principles of equality and mutual benefit. This is precisely what the diplomatic efforts of our countries are currently seeking.

AO: War against the people of the Gaza Strip is escalating. What is your country’s vision for ending the conflict and the necessary steps for the Palestinians to obtain their legitimate rights?

Ambassador Terentiev: Belarus has always advocated a fair solution to the Palestinian issue, based on the principles of international law, the main part of which is implementing the right of the Palestinians to create their sovereign state.

The creation of a full-fledged Palestinian state following UN resolutions and other international legal documents is the only solution to this long-standing problem. The only way to achieve this goal is a dialogue. 

In Belarus, we are shocked at the scale of the catastrophe that the Gazan population is currently experiencing. I believe that any political goals cannot justify human losses. The bloodshed must stop immediately.

Belarus has always expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people. The Embassy of Palestine has been operating in Minsk for many years. In our country, the Palestinians have equal access to social services, education, and healthcare as Belarusian citizens. In light of the current crisis, some universities have offered free education to Palestinian students. 

AO: The world is witnessing an economic crisis that affects food supply chains, etc. Are there initiatives taken to strengthen relations between the two countries confronting these crises?

Ambassador Terentiev: Belarus proceeds from the approach that the interest of ensuring global food security will become a priority for all international actors.

Indeed, the unstable situation in many regions of the world during recent years has provoked an increase in prices for important goods, including food. Unfortunately, despite this fact, the sanctions of many states against traditional food exporters became even stricter. Those actions caused a serious spike in global prices and a deficit in many important products, including food, fertilizers, and fuel.

I will give an example from the experience of my country.

Belarus has become a target of massive economic and political coercion by some Western countries. We consider these actions very unacceptable and deny the arguments for their imposition.

For instance, the steps taken concerning Belarusian potash fertilizers, including the illegal ban on the transit of fertilizers, have dire implications for global food security and the elimination of hunger.

Belarusian company Belaruskali is the second largest producer of potash globally. Before the illegal termination of Belarusian potassium transit through the ports of the Baltic Sea, Belarus's share in global potash trade amounted to about 20 percent. Nowadays, it has decreased to more than half. 

What can we expect when the critically needed commodity is forced out of the market with political motivation? The increase in prices and decrease in food security in vulnerable regions is the price, which, for example, Africa pays for irresponsible approaches and measures of some countries against Belarus. 

Half the world’s population gets food through fertilizers, and removing fertilizers from the field will significantly reduce the yield of crops – for some crops, the yield will drop by as much as 50 percent. 

Given the real risk to global food security, Belarus appeals for assistance in exempting Belarusian potash from voluntarist bans and restrictions and restoring the unhindered transit of Belarusian fertilizers to the market, including Latin America, Asia, and Africa. 

My country highly appreciates the support of friendly Egypt in this matter on various international platforms. Of course, in these circumstances, our countries take action to expand cooperation in the food sector. 

Egypt is traditionally well known in Belarus for its fruits and vegetables.

We also work to increase the supply of dairy and meat products from Belarus to Egypt. Some Belarusian companies were certified by the General Organization of Veterinary Service of Egypt and the IS EG Halal.

The issue of food security was the key topic of the second meeting of the Belarusian-Egyptian joint working group on agriculture, which took place in Cairo on 14 November 2023. 

This topic will have the necessary attention from both sides this year too.

AO: What about economic and trade cooperation between Belarus and Egypt?

Ambassador Terentiev: Egypt is a key economic partner of Belarus in the region, our “gateway to Africa.” The potential of our cooperation is substantial. Despite objective difficulties, such as the global economic crisis, instability in various regions, sanctions restrictions, and rising logistics costs, economic relations between our countries are developing.

Belarus is a traditional supplier of metal products; tractors; trucks; agricultural, construction, and road equipment; high-tech products; and dairy products, among others.

The Egyptian goods most popular in Belarus are fruits and vegetables, medicines, outerwear, and fabrics. Egypt also remains the most popular destination for Belarusian tourists.

In 2023, we organized in Cairo the seventh meeting of the Belarusian-Egyptian Joint Trade Commission, the third meeting of the Belarusian-Egyptian working group on cooperation in the field of industry, and the second meeting of the Belarusian-Egyptian Business Cooperation Council. The two sides discussed all the important topics of the bilateral agenda, such as trade and economic cooperation, increasing the bilateral turnover, eliminating complications in trade, intensifying interaction in the fields of industry, agriculture, higher education, tourism, pharmaceuticals, petrochemistry, logistics, customs, banking, and financial spheres.

I am optimistic about the participation of Belarusian and Egyptian businessmen at international exhibitions in our countries. The Belarusian side has already invited Egyptian officials and executives to participate in an agricultural exhibition, “Belagro,” which will take place in Minsk in June. There are plans to organize an Egyptian trade fair in Belarus. 

Furthermore, we plan to organize the National Exposition of the Republic of Belarus at the Food Africa 2024. This year we want Belarusian participation at the Egypt Projects, Big Five Construct Egypt, SAHARA, MacTech, and other exhibitions.

I am confident that the Free Trade Agreement between the Eurasian Economic Union, its member states, and Egypt will positively impact Belarusian-Egyptian trade. Belarus will welcome the soonest signing of this document. 

AO: Is there cooperation in agriculture, technology, and education?

Ambassador Terentiev: Belarusian-Egyptian cooperation in these areas is strategic and mutually beneficial. Issues related to agricultural development were discussed at the presidential level and by our foreign ministers.

Belarus and Egypt are also actively cooperating in education and technology. Over the years, both countries have signed agreements and partnerships for enhancing educational exchange, research collaboration, and technology transfer.

Additionally, Belarus and Egypt have worked together on joint research projects, technology development initiatives, and capacity-building programmes in various sectors. 

Overall, the Belarusian-Egyptian cooperation in education and technology demonstrates a strong commitment to mutual development and progress through partnership. 

With the direct support of the Republic of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, every year we offer the Egyptian side the opportunity to provide healthcare for Egyptian children in Belarus free of charge.

AO: Both countries have a great culture and civilization. What about cooperation in these fields? 

Ambassador Terentiev: Cooperation in the cultural sphere is undoubtedly promising. 

Primarily, I would like to highlight that recently the embassy, in cooperation with the Supreme Council for Culture and Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, held a cultural event titled "Egyptian-Belarusian Relations – Cultural and Civilizational Bridges." It was attended by more than 50 representatives of Egyptian cultural and public figures.

The event presented the main aspects of the national culture, including our history, traditions, and cuisine. It received positive feedback from the participants, who expressed their interest in learning more about the culture of the Republic of Belarus.

The secretary-general of the Egyptian Supreme Council for Culture noted that the relations between Egypt and Belarus are characterized by stability, friendliness, and strong cultural cooperation.

In addition, cooperation between the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre of the Republic of Belarus and the Cairo Opera House is developing. Work is underway to organize reciprocating tours of theatrical groups from both countries, including Belarusian and Egyptian performances in Cairo and Minsk.

The National Library of Belarus and the New Library of Alexandria interact based on their cooperation agreement. The presentation of a collection of mini-copies of rare Belarusian books to the New Library of Alexandria in October 2022 was a remarkable step in this direction.

Tourism cooperation has traditionally occupied a special position in the Belarusian-Egyptian relations. Our tourists prefer Egyptian resorts for their vacations. Thus, in 2023, the number of Belarusian tourists in Egypt exceeded 100,000. 

The aviation ministries of Belarus and Egypt are working to improve the air service system by expanding the route map of flights, introducing new destinations, and resuming regular flights between the capitals, to boost tourist exchange between both countries.

The Belarusian air carrier Belavia will implement this year, for the first time, a flight programme on the Minsk-Alamein route.

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