King Juan Carlos to inaugurate Russia-Spain year

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King Juan Carlos is to visit St Petersburg next month to inaugurate Russia-Spain year which will be marked by reciprocal trips by leaders of both nations to boost economic ties, ministers said Monday.

The Spanish King and his wife Queen Sofia will preside over the opening of an exhibition of works from Madrid's Prado museum at the massive Hermitage museum in St Petersburg, the most westerly Russian city.

The exhibition will be "the first of 350 events as part of this year," said Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Jukov during a meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero will be guest of honour at an annual international economic forum in St Petersburg in June, Jukov added.

Russia is also keen to organise a football friendly between the two national teams, according to Jukov.

"We have good political relations but the level of our economic and commercial ties remains low," said Jimenez.

Russia is particularly interested in Spanish technology, high-speed trains and energy conservation.

Jiminez said that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev would visit Madrid on December 5 to formally close the year of bilateral events, bringing with him stars of the Bolshoi ballet.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is expected in Spain in May, she added.

The friendship year gets underway after tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats in December for "activities incompatible with their status," diplospeak for spying.

© 2011 AFP

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