HARARE-- Russia intends to set up a Special Economic Zone in Zimbabwe where Russian companies can operate from, as part of a broader thrust to pursue mutually beneficial economic

ties with Zimbabwe, says Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Lavrov, who was in Zimbabwe on the fourth leg of a five-nation tour of African countries, has already been to Namibia, Angola, and Mozambique and winds up his tour with a visit to Ethiopia.

He told a joint media briefing after meeting President Emmerson Mnangagwa here Thursday that Russia and Zimbabwe had agreed to a number of Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs).

One of these MoUs signed between the Ministers of Industry and Trade states the intention of setting up a Special Economic Zone here in Zimbabwe. Professionals and specialists are going to go through this memorandum, this programme and then relay it of course to the leadership of the countries as well as to the Ministries, but I do not think this is going to take too much time. A decision is going to be made soon, he said here Thursday.

As for the messages that we have conveyed to His Excellency the President of Zimbabwe from President (Vladmir) Putin, these messages send support to the President of Zimbabwe in his efforts to stabilize the political situation in the country, consolidating and developing comprehensive and multifaceted co-operation with countries that are willing to help Zimbabwe address its problems.

Lavrov said the two sides had agreed to aggressively develop trade and economic ties, highlighting that Russia would not place any conditions for the ties to blossom.

I do not quite grasp why we would impose anything on any of our partners, Zimbabwe in particular. We are willing to work with any country that is ready to do that on the basis of equal rights and mutual benefit," he said.

We are certainly, categorically against any unilateral steps such as sanctions or trying to impose measures forcing this or that country to do something, such measures are unfortunately placed against Zimbabwe, he said.

Lavrov said discussions with President Mnangagwa had also touched on implementation of the Platinum project in Darwendale and prospects for co-operation in the diamond industry. "We also talked about the prospects of military and technical co-operation," he said.

I believe the talks that we had today as well as the talks with the countries I have mentioned are very useful in promoting our bilateral relations.

Zimbabwean Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Lieutenant General Sibusiso Moyo (Rtd) said the visit had bolstered ties between the two countries. The visit by my colleague Mr Lavrov has escalated the level of relations between our two great nations, he said.