Article by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov “Russia and New Zealand: 75 years of Dialogue and Cooperation”, published in “New Zealand International Review”
On April 13, Russia and New Zealand celebrated an important anniversary: 75 years of diplomatic relations. Over these three quarters of a century the relations between our states have lived through different periods. Still, mutual sympathy that unites our peoples and stretches back into the depths of time remains intact.
Solidarity with the people of New Zealand recently manifested itself following the tragic events of 15 March in Christchurch. Sharing the pain of the bereaved families we wish a speedy recovery to all who were affected. There is no doubt that through joint effort we will be able to respond to this challenge to our common security as we have done during the entire length of the history of bilateral relationship.
First representatives from Russia stepped foot on New Zealand's land during the First Russian Antarctic Expedition of 1819–1821 undertaken by seafarers Fabian Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev who later became famous for their discovery of Antarctica. Our outstanding compatriots met inhabitants of the hospitable islands and carried out scientific research there. Expedition's artist Pavel Mikhailov made drawings of the South Island coasts – these drawings are carefully kept in Russian museums and remain a vivid reminder of the first meeting of the two peoples.
Our bilateral contacts became official after the Russian Empire appointed a non-professional vice-consul to Wellington in 1914.
Diplomatic relations were established in the harsh times of World War II when our countries were fighting hard against Nazism. The USSR-NZ Friendship Society started its work in New Zealand in July 1941 just a few days after Hitler’s Germany attacked the USSR. We remember the heroic efforts by New Zealand aviators and mariners who participated in the Allied Arctic convoys. Many of them were decorated with well-deserved Soviet and Russian awards.
Deputy Prime Minister Keith Holyoake, the first New Zealand leader to visit the USSR on his official visit to Moscow in 1955, marked the beginning of the political dialogue. Prime Minister Walter Nash paid an official visit to the USSR in 1960. In 1973, Moscow and Wellington agreed to upgrade diplomatic relations to ambassadorial level. A mechanism of regular consultations between Foreign Ministries was put in place.
We have been steadily developing trade, scientific, educational, and cultural cooperation. The trade agreement signed in 1963 laid the legal basis for business contacts. In 1978, our countries concluded a fishing agreement that was subsequently renewed many times. In the 1980s, the Joint Trade Commission met annually.
It is gratifying that Russia – New Zealand relations continue to develop in the modern age. Notwithstanding the turbulent situation in the world, the political dialogue is still on. Bilateral legal framework that was established is being further improved. In particular, under implementation are intergovernmental agreements on air transportation, on the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of tax evasion with respect to taxes on income as well as a joint intergovernmental statement on cooperation in Antarctica.
Cultural ties are being further strengthened. Recent years have seen the tours to New Zealand of the St. Petersburg Konstantin Tachkin Ballet Theatre, the Imperial Russian Ballet and the celebrated Russian opera diva Anna Netrebko. Several "Russian Resurrection" film festivals have been organized.
For our part, we look forward to stronger bilateral trade, economic, and investment bonds, and more active scientific and educational exchanges.
Important contribution to enhancing mutual trust is made by our compatriots living in New Zealand. Their activity helps promote the Russian language, implement various cultural initiatives, and establish contacts through people-to-people diplomacy.
I am pleased to note the mutual interest in maintaining dialogue on a number of key issues of the global and regional agendas, in particular in the fields of climate, disarmament and non-proliferation, where we share similar or identical approaches. We appreciate the support by our New Zealand counterparts of the traditional Russia-sponsored draft resolution of the UN General Assembly on transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities.
Today's world requires collective steps aimed at creating in the Asia-Pacific Region an open and inclusive architecture of equal and indivisible security based on the fundamental principles of international law, such as non-interference in internal affairs, peaceful settlement of disputes, and no use or threat of use of force. It is particularly important given the Asia-Pacific growing role in the world economy and politics. We believe that efforts to that end should be based on the historic and well-established configuration of ASEAN-centric mechanisms.
In that regard, it is encouraging that New Zealand and Russia constructively cooperate in such formats as the East Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum, ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus, as well as APEC and the Asia-Europe Meeting mechanism. These forums provide good opportunities for further development of our cooperation on many current Asia-Pacific related issues. They include strengthening regional interconnectivity, creating conditions for a sustainable and dynamic development of the region, and seeking best responses to numerous security challenges.
We are certainly open for joint work with Wellington that is aimed at an uncompromising fight against the terrorist threat, which no state in the world is immune to. We can defeat terrorism only through our joint efforts on the basis of international law. The well-known initiative of Russia's President Vladimir Putin to create a genuinely broad international coalition against terrorism under the auspices of the UN pursues this objective.
For Russia, our relations with New Zealand are inherently valuable and are not subject to geopolitical fluctuations. We hope that our New Zealand partners share a similar logic. We are convinced that today we have everything necessary to expand our bilateral interaction based on the principles of respect and consideration of one another's interests. This would serve the interests of our citizens and the objectives of strengthening peace, security, and stability.