On 18 February 2023 at the 36th ordinary session of the Assembly of the African Union, Azali Assoumani, the leader of the Union of Comoros, took over the AU chairmanship from Senegal’s president Macky Sall.
Both Kenya and Comoros applied for AU chairmanship, but the Kenyan president William Ruto withdrew his bid.
This appointment opens up opportunities for intensification of the relations between Russia and Comoros as the President of the Comoros Azali Assoumani is to be a co-chairman of the Second Russia-Africa Summit which will be held in July 2023 in Saint-Petersburg.
Comoros is a small Indian Ocean archipelago with more than 900,000 people (about 1.2 million people if we count Mayotte) and GDP of 1.3 billion US dollars in 2021, according to the World Bank.
“By allowing the Union of the Comoros to lead the African continent, our Organization has just proved to the world its conviction that all countries have the same rights and enjoy the same freedoms”, noted Azali Assoumani.
Russia established diplomatic relations with the country in 1976, soon after it attained independence. However, until now, there is no Russian Embassy to the Comoros with the Russian Ambassador residing in Antananarivo being also accredited to the Comoros.
Bilateral trade between Russia and Comoros remains insignificant but is slowly increasing. In 2021, Comoros exported 120,000 US dollars to Russia with cloves being the main exported product. It is followed by essential oils and articles of apparel. Whereas Russia’s export to the country consisted of frozen chicken parts and amounted to 32,000 US dollars.
For a long time, cooperation between Comoros and Russia remained sporadic but the relations have traditionally been friendly. In December 2012, Russia supported the IMF’s decision to write off the debt of the Comoro Islands – about 145 million US dollars. Humanitarian aid was sent twice to Comoros: in 2014 and in 2020.
Nonetheless, over the last few years there has been a slight intensification of bilateral relations between the countries. In November 2018, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Comoros, El-Amine Souef, paid his first official visit to Moscow, during which he held talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. The ministers confirmed their countries’ commitment to promoting mutually beneficial partnership as well as outlined potential fields for cooperation such as fishing, renewable energy, the provision of fresh water and agriculture. The countries also agreed on training law enforcement personnel for the Comoro Islands in Russia.
Mr. Lavrov pointed out that the Russian Federation unwaveringly supports the integrity of the Union of Comoros, considering Mayotte, currently administered by France, to be its part in accordance with the UN decision of 1975.
In 2019, the President of the Comoros Azali Assoumani took part in the First Russia-Africa Summit, held in Sochi. Last year Comoros and Russia signed a statement on non-deployment of weapons in space, the initiative was supported by 30 other states.