Following the talks, Mr Putin and Ms Merkel made press statements and answered journalists’ questions.
Mr Putin also met with President of the Federal Republic of Germany Joachim Gauck.
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Excerpts from the news conference following Russian-German talks
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen,
We have just ended our talks and thorough discussion with Ms Merkel, and as always, our conversation was productive and took place in a friendly and open spirit.
We reaffirmed our mutual desire for an intensive political dialogue that will strengthen Russian-German cooperation in all areas, and we exchanged views on a wide range of issues, most of which the Federal Chancellor mentioned just now. We discussed regional issues and developing our humanitarian ties.
Naturally, the economic agenda was one of the main subjects of discussion. Our trade is growing, as you just heard. In 2011, by our figures, it reached the record level of almost $72 billion, which is up by more than a third on the 2010 figure.
”The gas pipeline’s first section is already in operation, and the underwater part of the second section will soon be finished and by the last quarter of this year will start delivering gas to consumers in Germany. This will certainly bolster energy security for all of Europe.“
Our energy sector ties are also developing well. You just heard about the Nord Stream project. The gas pipeline’s first section is already in operation, and the underwater part of the second section will soon be finished and by the last quarter of this year will start delivering gas to consumers in Germany. This will certainly bolster energy security for all of Europe.
We paid particular attention to the preparations for our 14th round of interstate consultations and decided that they will take place in Kazan this autumn.
I agree, of course, with the Federal Chancellor that the reciprocal cultural years under the patronage of our two countries’ heads of state will be a big event in our bilateral relations. I have already sent the invitation to President of Germany Joachim Gauck, and I hope to have the pleasure of presenting him personally with the invitation at our meeting later.
These events will conclude with a gala concert in the summer of 2013 in Berlin. As was said, we will organise hundreds of events in each other’s countries, and I am sure they will be memorable moments for people in both countries.
The St Petersburg Dialogue forum continues to play a big role in strengthening our bilateral ties and is a valuable generator of interesting new initiatives.
As was said just now, we also discussed our cooperation on the international stage. We discussed the problems the international community is encountering now in Syria, the growing violence there, and we also discussed the Iranian nuclear programme.
In just a few days’ time, the Russia-EU summit will take place in St Petersburg. We hope that Germany, as our longstanding constructive partner, will play a positive part in developing relations between the Russian Federation and the European Union in general.
”The reciprocal cultural years under the patronage of our two countries’ heads of state will be a big event in our bilateral relations. We will organise hundreds of events in each other’s countries, and I am sure they will be memorable moments for people in both countries.“
I want to thank the Federal Chancellor for today’s very good discussion and for the friendly and business-like spirit in which it took place.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Question: Recently, we have heard much criticism concerning Germany’s growing dependence on Russian energy resources. Do you think this is true? Perhaps President of Russia Vladimir Putin could comment on this view?
Vladimir Putin: I will provide an entirely depoliticised answer. I want to say that the volume of Russian gas supplies to Germany is not increasing compared to previous, pre-crisis years. Russia’s share in the structure of German consumption of primary energy resources is not growing.
When we talk about potential growth, we are talking about declining procurement in Germany itself, as well as in other European nations. And that is precisely why many European nations are showing more and more interest in getting involved in a project like Nord Stream.
This project has truly become international, pan-European. You know, gas will now be flowing through this transit corridor not only to Germany but other European nations as well. We are also now getting requests from Scandinavian nations and Great Britain.
So I do not think that there is any kind of one-sided dependence growing here. If we are talking about dependence, it is mutual. I think that this is a significant element that increases energy stability on a pan-European scale. I feel it is entirely right.
However, we also discussed other projects today: South Stream, Nabucco, and Russia’s cooperation with Norway. I told Ms Federal Chancellor about how we are advancing on these projects with our Norwegian partners.
There are no scary stories here, nor should there be. All of these are issues that work not only in the interests of Russia and Germany, but the entire European continent as well.
Question (re-translated): US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Russia supports Bashar al-Assad’s regime and thereby does not allow for political changes in Syria. Mr President Putin, do you feel that this criticism is valid? Do you perceive a possibility that, if Kofi Annan’s plan is unsuccessful, Russia could agree with the sanctions against Syria within the Security Council?
Vladimir Putin: Those who say that Russia supports any regime in a unilateral manner – in this case, the regime of President al-Assad – all these people are mistaken.
”We hope that Germany, as our longstanding constructive partner, will play a positive part in developing relations between the Russian Federation and the European Union in general.“
We have friendly relations with Syria spanning many years, but we do not support either of the sides generating the threat of a civil war. I agree with Ms Federal Chancellor: our common goal is to prevent the development of a situation that leads to such an unfavourable scenario. Today, we already see the emerging elements of a civil war. This is highly dangerous.
As for Mr Annan’s plan and his mission, I think we shouldn’t talk about the fact that he could fail; we shouldn’t predict a negative outcome for his mission. Mr Annan is the former Secretary General of the UN and a very experienced person. I think that we must all focus on helping him. Our goal is to stop the violence, regardless of who is perpetuating it.
Ms Federal Chancellor and I agreed that we – Russia, Germany, and our other partners – must use all our capabilities and aim to prevent the escalation of violence, to help Mr Annan reach positive results.
Question: Mr President, in the midst of the difficult situation in Europe, Ms Federal Chancellor remains practically the sole consistent supporter of a stability pact and, at the same time, speaks out against Eurobonds. Meanwhile, leaders of other European nations – such as the President of France, whom you will meet this evening – are following a different policy.
My question is, who do you support in this debate? How much do you feel the situation in Europe can influence the situation in Russia? Is there a chance that we will change our currency reserves, leaving the euro behind? And what will happen to Russian currency?
Vladimir Putin: You are putting me in a difficult position ahead of my visit to Paris…
As far as my support is concerned, I support the Russian people and the interests of the Russian government. Judging by what Ms Federal Chancellor is saying and doing, she supports the interests of the German people and the German state.
As for those possible Eurobonds or whatever they are called: we still don’t know what that is. We do not know what is being offered in this regard, who will issue them, and under what conditions. I could imagine that these instruments may be used but, it seems to me, after a full guarantee of the stability and economic order.
We did not discuss this matter in detail, but based on the logic of what Germany has done so far, I presume that the German leadership does not want Europe’s problems to be reproduced again and again.
What we fully agree on (we can say that Germany and Russia’s interests align) is that we want to ensure the normal function of our economies; we are interested in the European economy functioning normally as well.
About 40 per cent of our reserves, and they are the third largest in the world, are kept in euro. A significant proportion of these reserves, and I brought this up today with Ms Federal Chancellor, is in German government bonds, government papers. They are not very profitable, but we feel they are stable.
”We have friendly relations with Syria spanning many years, but we do not support either of the sides generating the threat of a civil war. Our common goal is to prevent the development of a situation that leads to such an unfavourable scenario. This is highly dangerous.“
As for Eurobonds, which you mentioned, I still don’t know. But I know that somebody has to issue them, and then somebody has to buy them. And then, this would finance the debt obligations of nations that are in a difficult situation, and which will receive money for development. And if these nations do not fulfil their obligations, who will pay out these bonds? Germany, most likely.
But that is not a question for me to answer, it is a question pertaining to the political choices of the German and French leadership, and the European Union overall.
Question: Does this affect the Russian economy?
Vladimir Putin: Of course it does. More than 50 per cent of our trade turnover is with EU nations.
Naturally, we are very interested in seeing stability in the euro zone as soon as possible. In this sense, our interests are fully aligned with Germany and France. The instruments that should be selected to do this, again, should primarily be decided by our European colleagues. But we assume they will choose the optimal approaches to solving these problems.
Question (re-translated): Mr President, perhaps I did not fully understand what steps you want to take with regard to Syria: as a global power, how do you want to use your influence? For example, Amnesty International demands an embargo on all weapon supplies from Russia. Perhaps you could tell us more specifically about your position, or about changing your positions.
Vladimir Putin: As far as possible instruments that we could use to resolve the Syrian problem are concerned, we are not going to apply any instruments unilaterally. Naturally, we will conduct a dialogue with our partners, first and foremost within the UN Security Council, with Germany, and with other nations interested in settling the conflict.
Naturally, we will be in contact with President al-Assad and Syrian leadership, we will be in contact with regional powers, Arab nations that are involved in the conflict in one way or another, and we will do everything possible in order to stop the conflict and move on to political means of settlement.
Ms Federal Chancellor and I talked about this today: finding a political solution to these problems – can it be done? Overall, I believe it is possible. It will require a certain level of professionalism and patience. We cannot do anything through the use of force and expect an instantaneous effect. A lot of people with differing interests have gotten involved in the conflict. We need to find where these interests intersect and sit them down at a negotiation table. That is the direction we will work toward.
As for weapons supplies, Russia does not supply armaments that could be used in a civil conflict.