Mongolia’s deputy prime minister defended his country buying almost 100% of its gas from Russia, saying its position as a large landlocked country presented “a lot of problems and challenges”.
Speaking exclusively to Sky News, Sainbuyan Amarsaikhan said that while Russian sources are important to ensure “continuous supply with reasonable price and prompt delivery”, the country is looking to “diversify” its gas sector and the economy further. largely “as soon as possible”. “.
He added that Mongolia was looking to countries like Australia to “strengthen cooperation – bilateral and multilateral”.
Mongolia is a large landlocked country sandwiched between China and Russia.
The logistical challenges of its geography as well as its position as a former Soviet outpost and its historical ties to China mean that it is heavily dependent on its two powerful neighbors for trade and supply.
But 2022 has brought this dependency to the fore, as the war in Ukraine and China’s zero-COVID policy have put Mongolia in a precarious position.
This dependence means that Mongolia has been cautious in its approach to war against Ukraine. He abstained earlier this year in a United Nations vote condemning the Russian invasion.
“Thanks to our northern neighbor Russia, we have all our transport from Europe,” Amdarsaikhan explained.
“Russia is our partner.”
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But while he made it clear that stopping the purchase of Russian gas is not an option for a country that needs “security of supply”, he insisted: “We don’t just want to diversify the gas sector”.
Mr Amdarsaikhan also criticized Western countries for spending “billions of dollars around the world on war, nuclear weapons and all inhumane acts”, when there are other pressing priorities such as aid to poorest countries to combat climate change.
He called for such spending to be “reviewed” and said a developing country like Mongolia cannot move away from coal mining – a major national industry – without international help.
“We need know-how, we need experts and we need financial support,” he said.
“Mongolia can’t do it alone, and we can’t just stop consuming coal and use it because it’s the only resource this country relies on.”
“Those [that] used and consumed billions of pounds of coal over the last century should help and help countries like Mongolia.”
While Mongolia is a developing country where many of its citizens are still very poor, it has significant mineral resources and a mining sector that grew rapidly in the 1990s and 2000s following the country’s transition towards market democracy.
Mining of coal, copper and gold ores accounts for about a quarter of the country’s GDP.
At the COP27 climate summit this fall, an agreement was reached to create a fund that would help the poorest countries deal with “loss and damage” from climate disasters compounded by countries’ greenhouse gas emissions. rich
Mongolia has suffered from drought and desertification and Mr Amarsaikhan thinks aid should be extended further.
He, however, expressed optimism about the recovery of Mongolia’s economy, which has been strained in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic and China’s zero-COVID policy.
This policy has led to the closure of the border between the two countries, which has had a serious impact on trade, much of which is crossed by truck.
“This is causing great damage not only to our economy, but to the whole society, and it affects all sectors of the country,” Amarsaikhan said.
He also acknowledged that recent protests in the capital Ulaanbaatar were partly caused by economic hardship and inequality as well as alleged corruption in the mining sector.
He acknowledged that “mistakes of the past” caused people to “lose trust and confidence”.
He hailed the opening of a new railway linking Mongolia with China as a major achievement and a vital step towards rebuilding export figures and recovering the economy.
“If all goes well, we don’t see more than a year for our economy to be in much, much better shape,” he said.