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No Debt Forgiveness Yet: Russia

Russia has not decided to forgive Cambodia nearly $1.5 billion in debt, a news agency reported Thursday.

“Talks are underway. The debt exists and should be settled under the Paris Club agreement,” the Russian news agency RIA quoted Konstantin Vyshkovsky, head of the Finance Ministry’s department of international financial relations, as saying. “But we have not signed a bilateral agreement.”

Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yiep has said Russia informally agreed to erase 70 percent of the debt, incurred in the 1980s at a period of heavy fighting, during a delegate visit in November.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said Cambodia should not pay the debt, which is owed to the now-defunct Soviet Union, and not Russia.

“We should not pay, as now the Soviet Union is no longer a union,” he said. “It has split into Russia.”

He added that Russia is now seeking oil, giving Cambodia a position of leverage.

Cambodia still owes around $2.3 billion to foreign governments and lenders. The International Monetary Fund recently forgave $82 million in debt, but the US has asked for repayment of more than $300 million in loans from the 1970s.

Cambodia has requested a forgiveness of this debt, too, but has received no response, Cheam Yiep said.