Russia vows to help PH fight terrorism, drug trafficking

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Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) shakes hands with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, May 23, 2017. (Pool photo by MAXIM SHEMETOV via AP)

Moscow — Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow would help the Philippines fight illegal drugs and terrorism, saying the two countries’ ties had been strengthened with President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit.

In a meeting in Moscow on Thursday, Lavrov told Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano: “I would like to reiterate our commitment to working together in security sphere, in fighting terrorism or fighting drug trafficking and other matters.”

The agreements signed between Philippines and Russia, Lavrov said, showed that relations between the two countries were improving.

“So we can surely say the visit of President Duterte to the Russian Federation indeed provided an important impetus in the development of stable relations between our countries,” he said.

He also said Russia would be happy to see Duterte anytime, after Cayetano expressed hope that the President would be able to return to Russia.

Duterte had to cut short his trip to Russia because of a terror attack in Marawi City from groups claiming affiliation with the Islamic State. He had also placed the entire island of Mindanao under martial law.

Lavrov also said Russia was in solidarity with the Philippines.

“I would like to once again reiterate our solidarity with the leadership of the Philippines, with the nation of he Philippines, and to express our sympathies and condolences to those who were hurt,” he said.

Cayetano reiterated Duterte’s commitment to strengthen the Philippines’ relations with Russia and his “commitment to forge true friendships and real brotherhood between Russians and Filipinos.”

He also said the response to attacks in Mindanao support the common desire of both countries to strengthen security and intelligence cooperation.

He thanked Russia for its help.

“So let me again express our gratitude for Russia’s offer to share your expertise, experience and vast knowledge in the field of security and fighting terrorism,” he said.

He also said it was unfortunate that the developments in Mindanao “absolutely requires” Duterte’s presence in the Philippines, because he had been looking forward to his trip to Russia.

“He was sad to cut short his trip to Russia as he was very much looking forward to this visit for several months,” he said.

He thanked Russian officials for understanding the situation and for their preparations for the Duterte’s visit and the warm hospitality extended to his delegation.

He also expressed gratitude to Russian President Vladimir Putin for rearranging his schedule to meet with Duterte.

Saying he was speaking on a personal note, Cayetano told Lavrov he was honored to sit with a “giant or a legend in the international relations and diplomacy.”

Lavrov said Cayetano was flattering him, but Cayetano said: “Filipinos only speak the truth.”

“Thank you in any case,” Lavrov replied. /atm

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