Following talks between Dmitry Medvedev and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a protocol on the operation of the Russian-Turkish Public Forum, and an Agreement on cooperation between the Federal State Unitary Enterprise National Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) and the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) were signed.
The leaders also exchanged notes on the entry into force of the Agreement between the Government of Russia and the Government of the Turkish Republic on Terms for Reciprocal Trips by Citizens of the Russian Federation and the Turkish Republic and the Agreement between the Government of Russia and the Government of the Turkish Republic on Readmission.
The Russian participants in the talks included Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, Presidential Aide Sergei Prikhodko, Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina, Industry and Trade Minister Viktor Khristenko, Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko, and Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation CEO Sergei Kiriyenko.
Press statement and answers to journalists' questions following High-Level Russian-Turkish Cooperation Council meeting
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen,
“Last year our bilateral trade came to $25 billion and we plan to increase our trade over the next five years and take it to a level unprecedented in our relations – as high as $100 billion a year.”
Prime Minister Erdogan and I chaired the second meeting of the High-Level Russian-Turkish Cooperation Council today. This Council was established only a year ago, but it is already working at full steam, and I hope that it already brings concrete results. We have established its key organisations: the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation, the Special Strategic Planning Group, and the Public Forum. These are the three institutions operating within the High-Level Cooperation Council’s framework.
I think all of these institutions are performing quite well, and we have indeed taken our relations to the level of a multifaceted strategic partnership. I believe we have an immense potential for expanding our trade and economic cooperation even further. Turkey has been one of our country’s major trade partners, after all. In 2009, our bilateral trade came close to $40 billion. In 2010 it came to $25 billion – the result of the crisis, of course. We plan to increase our trade over the next five years, as we said clearly during my visit to Turkey, and take it to a level unprecedented in our relations – as high as $100 billion a year.
I think that the main potential for developing our trade relations in this way lies in the links between the various cooperation directions we are pursuing, the links between the big projects and the trade ties that exist between our countries’ small and medium-sized businesses, which all add their contribution to our overall bilateral trade.
As far as the large projects are concerned, I have to mention the energy sector projects of course, South Stream, and the Samsun-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which we discussed in quite some detail today.
Certainly, there is also the construction of Turkey’s first nuclear power plant which is obviously a very important matter too. The colossal tragedy that has struck Japan has no doubt put construction of nuclear power plants into the public gaze, and everyone is asking themselves, can nuclear energy really be safe? The answer is clearly that it can be and is safe, but only if the right decisions are made on nuclear power plants’ location, design, and operators. If these conditions are fully respected, nuclear energy is absolutely safe and extremely useful for humanity.
We have agreed with our Turkish friends that the nuclear power plant built in Akkuyu will use a completely new triply integrated management scheme unifying the three key areas of the plant’s construction, ownership, and operation. This will increase our responsibilities, but our Turkish partners also have every interest in this model.
“Nuclear energy can be and is safe, but only if the right decisions are made on nuclear power plants’ location, design, and operators. If these conditions are fully respected, nuclear energy is absolutely safe and extremely useful for humanity.”
Turkey is one of our privileged partners in the innovation sector, of course. It is not by chance that we seek to develop these ties with Turkey. We expect to continue our cooperation in the telecommunications sector (one of the subjects we specifically discussed today), the pharmaceuticals industry, and space research.
We think there are good cooperation prospects in investment, and in the banking and infrastructure sectors. We also want to pursue our ties in the construction industry. Our relations in this sector are good overall. Likewise, we want to keep developing our cooperation in light industry in line with the agreements we have, and in agriculture and the metals sector. We have a good example here. Just a week ago, a modern metallurgical plant was launched in the town of Iskenderun. Russian and Turkish companies worked on its construction together.
Certainly, we also want our Turkish partners to be involved in the subcontracting projects that are implemented within our preparations for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Sochi is close to Turkey after all, and this gives our Turkish friends some advantages.
We likewise welcome Turkey’s involvement in preparations for the other major international events that Russia will host in the coming years. I am referring to the World University Games in Kazan in 2013, and the football world cup, of course, as well as other opportunities in Russia today.
We will also intensify our humanitarian ties, our contacts in culture, science and education. Our bilateral Public Forum met today, and its co-chairs reported on the results and have just signed a special document. I think this is very important too, because our ties must not be limited to the economy alone.
We have a huge amount of tourism between our countries, and we just signed a document on this area too, which will undoubtedly do its bit as it opens the road towards fully visa-free travel.
Naturally, Mr Erdogan and I discussed not only domestic and bilateral matters, but also talked about international security, the problems in our region of course, in the Middle East, and in North Africa, given what is happening in that part of the world at the moment and the serious problems that a number of countries face right now. We discussed a few matters concerning the situation in the Balkans, in the Trans-Caucasus, and certainly spoke about Black Sea region cooperation, which is obviously very important for both countries, given that we are two major players in the Black Sea region.
We noted that Russia and Turkey are both ready to make their contribution to ensuring regional and global security. We will continue this cooperation on a bilateral basis and in multilateral forums.
Once more, I want to thank my colleague, Prime Minister Erdogan, for today’s constructive work and for the good spirit in which our talks took place.
Question: Russia and Turkey are actively expanding their trade and economic ties with great significance attributed to energy cooperation.
The Turkish public is most keen on two points already raised by the two leaders. The first one is the construction of a nuclear power plant in Akkuyu. Following what has happened in Japan, will any additional safety measures be taken in the course of the nuclear power plant construction? If such additional measures are taken, will this be specified in a supplement to the agreement already signed?
“The project to be implemented in Akkuyu fundamentally differs from the nuclear power stations operated in Japan, it is more advanced and secure and employs different safety principles. Therefore even in light of what has happened in Japan, there is and may be no need for any drastic safety measures improvement as they are absolutely sufficient already.”
The second point relates to the pricing policies in natural gas supplies. Do the parties intend to make reciprocal moves in negotiating prices of natural gas supplies?
Dmitry Medvedev: With regard to nuclear energy, I believe my colleague and I have already made ourselves clear and definite. Any technology involves certain risks; what matters is the degree to which these risks are prevented at the design and construction phases. This, in my view, offers an absolutely explicit answer to your question as the project to be implemented in Akkuyu fundamentally differs from the nuclear power stations operated in Japan, it is more advanced and secure and employs different safety principles. Therefore even in light of what has happened in Japan, there is and may be no need for any drastic safety measures improvement as they are absolutely sufficient already. During our talks with our friends, we will certainly discuss project optimisation measures.
As for the power station construction, my colleague rightly said that any facility can be damaged by an earthquake, and hence in this sense the facility location is very important. Our countries are within seismic activity area, but the very principles and approaches employed in the project to be implemented in Akkuyu will allow withstanding even a most devastating earthquake. I am therefore certain this will be a good project. Indeed, in terms of the economic substance and legal mechanisms in place, it is truly interesting, and in my opinion, very beneficial for our Turkish friends precisely because, for the first time really, Russia is accepting liability not for merely building the nuclear power plant, but also for its maintenance and operation, and hence is accepting the title to the power plant which significantly simplifies the issues encountered while erecting such sophisticated facilities.
Now, regarding natural gas prices, and prices in general. Prices are based on supply and demand ratio and specified in the contracts in force. These prices are largely based on ‘take-or-pay’ principle, a key principle of our cooperation with Turkey. We do intend to adhere to the existing approach.
On the other hand, we have repeatedly advised our Turkish friends that in various cases, we are ready to examine varying approaches and respond to certain suggestions in view of the market fluctuations, but this should be a two-way street, since if we examine such projects and decisions amicably, if we listen to one another, if we find optimal ways for resolving economic problems, if we engage our political resources in a sensible manner, then the difficulties on the market will be less apparent. Thus, this is a matter that should be addressed on the basis of existing contracts, good will, and mutual trust.
Question: Mr President, you said that Russia and Turkey are following the situation in the Middle East very carefully and intently. What is your view of the situation in Libya and forecast for its development? How do you foresee Libya’s cooperation with other states, particularly Russia, given that Tripoli is Moscow’s long-standing partner and that Russia holds many contracts in Libya?
Dmitry Medvedev: As you know, Russia and Turkey may not be indifferent to what is happening in the Middle East and North Africa. But forecasts are a thankless affair hence I will not make any, especially since the entire sequence of events that has unfolded in that region has defied all predictions.
“We support the efforts by the League of Arab States, the African Union and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference to bring an end to the violence and stop suffering of civilians in Libya.”
Half a year ago, nobody could have imagined this scenario. Whatever analysts say and write today stating that sooner or later this had to happen, nothing is as simple as it may appears post factum.
No doubt, we believe that the problems in that region and in Libya have been accumulating for a long time, and the democratic processes that unfolded there are pained. The way these processes are unfolding in Libya is dramatic and the problem is that Libyan authorities are suppressing those processes, and UN Security Council Resolution 1970 is not being adhered to and there is a continued use of force.
We understand that nations neighbouring Libya, as well as our two countries which are partners, welcome a most peaceful settlement of this situation. Thus, we support the efforts by the League of Arab States, the African Union and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference to bring an end to the violence and stop suffering of civilians in Libya. Besides, we expect the current ruling regime to ultimately react to the demands of the Arab and African nations that are generally supported by the international community and by the Russian Federation in particular.
This specifically concerns the League of Arab States’ demand of declaring the airspace over Libya a no-fly zone. But this is a topic that must be considered within the framework of procedures established by the UN Security Council. It is a separate issue. In any case, even if this resolution is put to a vote, several things will need to be examined at the discussions, whether the resolution and its approaches are satisfactory to Libya’s immediate neighbours and the League of Arab States, and if so, which nations will take on the main responsibility for security administration in this zone, and what specific forces and means will be used to ensure the safety measures there? This is particularly relevant given that the draft resolution also proposes authorisation of ground operations. We all understand what that would mean. Ground operations would most likely mean the beginning of a war – and this time, it wouldn’t be a civil war, but rather, a war involving an international contingent.
This is a very serious and complicated set of issues that will be subject to review by the Security Council. I have given the Foreign Minister the necessary instructions on this matter. My Turkish colleague and I discussed it yesterday in great detail and spoke about it quite actively, because this situation certainly worries us and we do not want to see an escalation of violence.