SINGAPORE, Nov 13, 2018. Channel NewsAsia / Lianne Chia, CNA. Russia is one of the world’s largest countries, spanning 11 time zones and with more than 140 million residents, while Singapore is only a fraction of that size. But despite these differences, said President Halimah Yacob, both countries have forged a “long-standing friendship”, reported the Chanel NewsAsia (CNA).
Mdm Halimah was speaking at a state banquet held in honour of Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday (Nov 13). Mr Putin is on a two-day visit to Singapore, where he will attend the 3rd ASEAN-Russia Summit and 13th East Asia Summit.
This is Mr Putin’s first visit to Singapore and it caps off a year of festivities in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Russia.
“As a Russian saying goes, ‘for a friend, seven miles is not too far’,” Mdm Halimah said. “Despite the distance and differences between our two countries, it has been a good 50 years of friendship. We look forward to strengthening this relationship in the next 50 years and beyond.”
In his speech, Mr Putin described Singapore as an important and promising partner of Russia and the Asia-Pacific.
“Our negotiations with Mdm President were productive, interesting and comprehensive,” he said, speaking through an interpreter. “In a friendly and open atmosphere we discussed almost all of our bilateral agenda in its entirety.”
“You often hear in Singapore that among friends, even water runs sweet as honey, and mutual trust is the foundation of friendship, development and progress,” he added.
“The relations between us are indeed based on the solid foundation of mutual respect and trust.”
Mr Putin was greeted by Education Minister Ong Ye Kung upon his arrival earlier in the day, before receiving a ceremonial welcome at the Istana from Mdm Halimah. He then proceeded to call on the President.
Both leaders co-officiated the groundbreaking of the Russian Cultural Centre. When built, the centre will organise activities to promote cultural and people-to-people exchanges, as well as showcase Russian culture, a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
Four agreements were signed on the sidelines of the visit, according to the statement. These were: A joint statement on the Russia-Singapore Agreement on Trade in Services and Investment, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in the field of higher education, an MOU to promote cooperation on social and labour issues, as well as an agreement to cooperate in the potential development of an urban transport management system.
Mdm Halimah pointed out in her speech that bilateral trade between both countries has risen from S$1.9 billion to S$7.4 billion over the past decade, and there are 690 Russian companies in Singapore, in a variety of sectors.
The Eurasian Economic Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, which is currently being negotiated, will further strengthen ties and benefit both Singapore and Russian companies, and could also act as a pathfinder to an FTA between the Eurasian Economic Union and ASEAN.
The Eurasian Economic Union comprises Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.