The meeting was held on the sidelines of the informal CIS summit, which is taking place in the Kremlin today.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Karimov, first of all, I would like to thank you for being here in Moscow today. We have amassed extensive experience of inter-state relations over the long years of our joint work, and I am sure we will be able to fully realise this potential, including the mutual commitment of our states to continue developing our relations, as well as the very high level of our personal relationship and contacts which have evolved over the years of our joint work. I am certain that we can and should use all this for the benefit of our bilateral relations and the development of ties between our nations.
President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov: Thank you.
Mr Putin, I would like to use this opportunity to sincerely thank you and to offer my congratulations on your successful election campaign and your election to the high office of President of Russia.
I will not speak in platitudes. Everyone has congratulated you already (the whole world has been congratulating you but I am referring to our colleagues, presidents, heads of states, and prime ministers), and I find myself among the last. Therefore, I offered my sincere congratulations to you at the CSTO Summit today, which gave me great pleasure because I spoke from the heart when I said that your election is a historic event.
The situation in the world is changing rapidly, events are developing dynamically and, to put it plainly, all of us are at a turning point. I will repeat what I have already said on many occasions but this is the first time I will say it in your presence. Our time demands strong policies, especially in the socioeconomic sphere, as well as in politics and defence. We need strong people who have the understanding and the ability to fulfil their promises and do what is most necessary today.
I think some people do not fully understand the changes that are taking place in the world, and the fact that a country like Russia, which is one of the great global powers, a country with an enormous potential, should occupy a fitting place and be respected around the world.
”Uzbekistan and Russia are united by close, centuries-old ties of friendship and cooperation. Let us build on that base, which we inherited from history, from our ancestors, and move forward at the pace and with the quality that the time demands.“
In this sense, journalists should keep in mind how four years ago, when presidential elections were held in 2008, I asked you with complete honesty: “Mr Putin, perhaps you should run for a third term?” Others can interpret it as they wish but I was absolutely sincere. When demanding times come, it can happen that political upheavals (and any election is an upheaval) may take the country off course and things in general do not always go according to script, as they are expected or planned.
I am not going to continue with this theme, but in conclusion I would say this: I see a man in you who is a pragmatist, someone who looks realistically at what is going on, a man who has great patience. At the CSTO meeting today you have demonstrated your patience once again, your ability to control your nerves and hold a pause, so that everything returns to normal.
Therefore, I repeat, I sincerely congratulate you. The Russian people are a great nation, a people with a very high consciousness who put the interests of the country, of the entire nation first. Everything depends on the support you will receive, including from your colleagues.
Uzbekistan is not a small country in the post-Soviet space. Uzbekistan’s population today is nearly 30 million people. I am not saying that the population is growing rapidly: unlike Russia, we are doing everything we can to make sure that the population growth rate does not exceed 1.2 to 1.3.
It is our firm belief that given the present situation and our current prospects and resources, which include first of all water, territory and arable land, our main challenge is to provide everything our people need, and most importantly to make sure that the future generation lives better than we do, and is smarter and happier than we are. From this perspective, we try to use public campaigns, education and healthcare to ensure that population growth corresponds to economic growth. Our children should enjoy the same standards of living as children in the most developed countries. I have deviated somewhat, but this issue has a direct bearing on our bilateral personal relations.
When you first took office as President in 2000, I said that Putin is the kind of person you can go into a reconnaissance expedition with. And I want to repeat these words again today. Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Mr Karimov, you have mentioned the events of 2008. At the time, my colleagues and I – it was first and foremost my own decision – decided to act strictly in line with the Russian Constitution, Russian law and the will of the Russian people. Indeed, we have completed this phase and now a new stage is beginning in Russia’s development, in the development of its economy, social sphere and I hope also of its relations with CIS countries, including Uzbekistan.
You spoke highly of Russia’s potential, and I am very grateful to you for that. We can also highly assess the potential of Uzbekistan, in terms of its population, natural resources and economic potential, which is most important. We have always considered and will continue to consider Uzbekistan as one of the key states in the region. That is how we intend to build a relationship with you, Mr Karimov, with your country as a whole. Uzbekistan and Russia are united by close, centuries-old ties of friendship and cooperation. Let us build on that base, which we inherited from history, from our ancestors, and move forward at the pace and with the quality that the time demands.
Islam Karimov: Thank you.