Gaborone — Outgoing Russian ambassador Dr Victor Sibilev has been applauded for solidifying the good relations between Botswana and Russia and leaving behind a good track record.
Speaking at an occasion to bid the ambassador farewell on Wednesday, Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Mr Kabo Morwaeng expressed gratitude for the remarkable contribution Dr Siblev had made towards the enhancement of Botswana-Russia relations.
"During your tenure, you devoted time and resources to expansively engage with Batswana and various stakeholders with a view to deepen and broaden the scope of bilateral cooperation.
Through your determined efforts, we have seen our strategic partnerships being fostered in the fields of education, defence, law enforcement, trade, health, mining, environmental protection and cultural cooperation," he said.
He thanked Dr Sibilev, also dean of the diplomatic corps, for efforts he undertook to facilitate smooth operation of diplomats in Botswana.
Mr Morwaeng said he remained confident the outgoing ambassador would continue to advocate for strong partnership and collaboration between Russia and Botswana.
Among Dr Sibilev's noteworthy achievements Mr Morwaeeng mentioned the 50th anniversary celebration of Botswana-Russia diplomatic relations in March.
The commemoration was emblematic of the long-standing relations and strategic partnership between Botswana and Russia, he said.
He said another achievement was the signing in September 2018 of an agreement on cooperation in the field of defence which provided training of Botswana military officers "and has been well executed under his tutelage".
A historic achievement was the signing of a visa abolition agreement in June 2019 which facilitated people to people interaction and the ease of doing business between Botswana and Russian Federation, said the minister.
Mr Morwaeng further said under Dr Sibilev's facilitation, Russia extended to Botswana a number of capacity-building programmes, especially in the areas of health, law enforcement and diplomacy.
Had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, 15 young diplomats from the Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation could have participated in the "Young Diplomatic Training Course" and the 2020 "New Generation" programme.
Minister Morwaeng said the outgoing ambassador had facilitated a number of high level exchange visits aimed at strengthening bilateral cooperation and ensured the regular convening of the political consultation mechanism, a platform for taking stock of the state of relations and exchange of views on global issues of mutual interest.
"Our strong bonds of friendship also manifest in the multilateral fora, Russia is currently the Chair of the Kimberley Process, while Botswana is the Vice-Chair, both countries continue to ensure that the Kimberly Process unites administrations, civil societies, and industry in reducing the flow of conflict diamonds," stated Mr Morwaeng.
He said Botswana remained confident that Russia would lend its support to Botswana's bid to host the Kimberly Process secretariat.
Meanwhile, the outgoing ambassador has expressed gratitude to Batswana, saying he had worked with distinguished people who sought to protect the nation's interests exhibiting good team work spirit, mutual assistance and support.
He said Russia had always supported Botswana in its desire to shape the country's own destiny.
"It was on September 30, 1966, the first day of Botswana Independence that Russia recognised its new African partner and proposed to establish diplomatic relations in the same day," he said.
Dr Sibilev expressed delight that the two countries continued to maintain political dialogue at a high level.
Russia had continued to help young employees to travel to Russia for short courses at its Ministry of Foreign Affairs Diplomatic Academy.
He said Russia a process to propose permanent courses was halted by COVID-19 but said training was expected to start next year.
Dr Sibilev noted that the two countries had concluded several agreements and memoranda in the last couple of years, including on education.
As a result, he said, about 300 Batswana were studying in Russian universities.
He said Russia continued to support Botswana Police Service by sponsoring short term skills development courses and higher education programmes.
All the mechanisms were designed to deepen bilateral relations and attract Russian investments to Botswana for the benefit of both nations and their people, he said.
Dr Siblev has been serving as his country's ambassador to Botswana for the past six years.
Source : BOPA