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    NOVOSIBIRSK, January 16 (RIA Novosti-Siberia) - The Asian direction in Russia's foreign policy is of "vital and special importance" for the country, especially for development of Siberia and the Far East that are closest to the Asian-Pacific region, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said at a press conference in Novosibirsk, where he arrived on Friday after the visit to Mongolia and China.

    The main task of the ministry's official mission opened in Novosibirsk, which became the sixth in the Siberian federal district (the ministry has the total of 37 missions in the country) is to assist the staff of the Russian President's plenipotentiary in the district and regional authorities in developing international relations, especially economic contacts at the level of interregional cooperation, Ivanov pointed out.

    The ministry pays great attention to developing trade and economic relations between Siberian regions and Mongolia and China, he said. "Mongolian leadership is also interested in developing cooperation with Siberian regions," he emphasized. According to him, up to 70 percent of trade turnover between Russia and Mongolia is accounted for by regions bordering on Mongolia, that is, Siberia.

    In 2003 trade turnover between Russia and China amounted to $16 billion, according to preliminary estimates, an increase of 30 percent against the previous year.

    The Shanghai Cooperation Organization that comprises Russia, China and four Central Asian states aims at developing first of all trade and economic cooperation between the Asian-Pacific countries and CIS Asian states, the Russian minister said. All this will ensure economic prosperity of Siberia and the Russian Far East, he believes.

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