Russia's trade with Arab world tops Soviet-era level

Russia's trade with African and Middle East countries has topped $14 billion, the Kremlin's Africa envoy Mikhail Margelov told Interfax.

"Arab countries invest in projects being implemented in Russia in a mutual process, while Russian-Arab trade has topped the Soviet-era level, reaching $14 billion," Margelov said.

This figure is likely to rise as Russian companies continue presence in major infrastructure projects and in concession agreements to develop gold and hydrocarbons fields in Egypt, and oil fields in Libya, he said.

Economic operators have intensified their crucial work to aid Russian companies active in this region. "They are the Chamber of Commerce, the Russian-Arab Business Council, the Russian Export Insurance Agency, the Russian Direct Investments Fund and others. But our companies operating in Arab countries are also in need of state support. Tourism offers a large development potential for Arab states," Margelov said.

The 67th UN General Assembly put a special accent on the situation in the Middle East and Africa, he said.

A project to assist Middle East and African countries was launched at the G8 summit in Deauville in May 2011 and an agreement was reached to make about $40 billion available to the region by 2013 to accomplish democratic reforms and economic modernization. In addition to this, the IMF has pledged to provide $20 billion, and Gulf states have each promised to make $10 billion available to implement this project," Margelov said.

Morocco, Jordan, Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were included in the Deauville Partnership project, although Libya was entered on this list with reservations and on condition that it unfreezes part of the deposed Gaddafi government's assets, according to Margelov.

Moscow welcomes the results of the work done under the Deauville Partnership project to aid Middle East and African countries, although it has acknowledged that high uncertainty and a volatile legal environment in the member-countries have been slowing the project.

"In order to spur it Russia has ratified amendments to the agreement on the establishment of the European Bank for Reconstruction ad Development, and launched most favored nation regimes with each member. As a result, trade with the Deauville Partnership members increased 1.5 times in the first half of 2012. In addition, Russia plans to convene intergovernmental commission meetings with all member-states next year," Margelov said..

Russia has intensified relations with countries of North Africa and the Middle East that have gone through change in recent years, he said.

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