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Russia's Lavrov Concludes a Productive Tour of Cuba and Venezuela

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held brief but productive meetings in Cuba yesterday, and Venezuela today, signing agreements in both countries to strengthen their bilateral relations and mutually-beneficial development. Both countries have made it clear that they intend to join the BRICS, and Lavrov was encouraging.

This is the second trip that Lavrov has made to both countries in less than a year, the last time being in April of 2023. He was accompanied on his tour by an important delegation consisting of Deputy Foreign Minister Serguei Ryabkov, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Alexei Yu Drobinin, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Planning Department, and Alexander V. Shchetinin, head of the Latin America department of the Foreign Ministry. In Havana, Russian Ambassador Viktor Koronelli also joined the group, according to the daily Granma.

Following his one-day visits to each country, Lavrov headed off to Brazil, where he will attend the G20 Foreign Ministers’ summit on Feb. 21 and then meet with President Lula da Silva on Feb. 22.

Russia’s economic cooperation with Cuba is crucial, given the island’s dire economic crisis, but it is also mutually beneficial. Lavrov reported, according to TASS, that the legal framework for trade and economic cooperation between Russia and Cuba has been “significantly strengthened and supplemented,” and that conditions for Russian investments have been improved. Russia is very interested in working with Cuba’s excellent biotechnology industry in the area of healthcare and pharmaceuticals. Lavrov had extensive discussions with his host Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez, and also met with President Miguel Díaz-Canel. In the next two to three months, the two governments will meet in the format of their bilateral intergovernmental commission.

Cuba has also expressed great interest in expanding its ties with the BRICS, and Lavrov has noted that, as Russia is chairing the group this year, “it will support this sentiment,” and expects that other members will also support Cuba’s application for “permanent status at BRICS.”

Yesterday, prior to Lavrov’s arrival in Caracas, President Nicolas Maduro announced that his government expects to join the BRICS “very soon,” hoping it can happen by October, when the BRICS summit takes place in the Russian city of Kazan.

In discussions with Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez today, Lavrov discussed expanding cooperation in oil and gas production and in the peaceful use of nuclear energy, as well as gas field development, and in agriculture and medicine. Lavrov described Venezuela as one of Russia’s closest and most trusted friends in Latin America, with which Russia enjoys an important strategic partnership.