Russia and New Zealand: 75 Years of Dialogue and Co-Operation: Sergey Lavrov Notes a Significant Anniversary for Russia-New Zealand Diplomacy

By Lavrov, Sergey | New Zealand International Review, May-June 2019 | Go to article overview

Russia and New Zealand: 75 Years of Dialogue and Co-Operation: Sergey Lavrov Notes a Significant Anniversary for Russia-New Zealand Diplomacy


Lavrov, Sergey, New Zealand International Review


On 13 April, 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 our bilateral relationship.

The first representatives from Russia set foot on New Zealand's land during the First Russian Antarctic Expedition of 1819-21 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. The 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 the Second World War 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 Soviet Union. 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 Soviet Union 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 Soviet Union 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 co-operation. 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.

Developing co-operation

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. The bilateral legal framework that was established is being further improved. In particular, under implementation are inter-governmental 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 inter-governmental statement on co-operation 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 organised.

For our part, we look forward to stronger bilateral trade, economic and investment bonds, and more active scientific and educational exchanges.

An 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. …

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