Mr Putin and Mr Kuchma discussed topical political, trade, economic and energy cooperation issues and exchanged opinions on a wide range of international problems.
The two heads of state held a joint news conference after the first round of talks. The Russian President told journalists that his informal meetings with his Ukrainian counterpart were proceeding in a totally frank atmosphere and would enable them to move forward on many bilateral issues.
One of the main tasks of cooperation at this stage is synchronising the work on accession to the World Trade Organization. The WTO negotiating process is connected with the efforts of four CIS states – Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan – to create a Common Economic Space (CES) which, according to Vladimir Putin, creates certain problems for achieving both goals. Vladimir Putin expressed hope that the serious differences within “the four” over the problem of the WTO would not affect the prospects of the CES, that the parties would manage to iron out all the disputes and liberalise their internal economic contacts before presenting their position to the outside world.
Another important area of Russian-Ukrainian cooperation is energy. Vladimir Putin praised the work to create a Russian-Ukrainian-German consortium for the use of Ukrainian gas pipelines. Experts have already analyzed a huge amount of information and the relevant materials were handed over to a representative of the German concern Ruhrgas at a recent three-way meeting. The Russian President said that it gives grounds to hope that some agreements could be reached as early as the autumn of 2003. By that time Russia would like to prepare a tentative feasibility study and have a clear idea of the degree of participation of all the parties in the consortium in cost terms.
There is a great untapped potential in other areas of the Russian-Ukrainian energy dialogue. During their consultations the heads of state considered the possibility of using the Ukrainian pipeline infrastructure for the transit of Russian oil and power transmission. This would make it possible in the future to develop a common energy policy involving Russia, Ukraine, the European Union, Eastern Europe and the Central Asian countries, Vladimir Putin believes.
During the news conference the two heads of state commented on the current situation around Iraq. Answering a question, the Russian President stressed the importance of putting in place an effective system of international interaction in rebuilding the war-ravaged country. Vladimir Putin spoke about his recent talks with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair during which the latter managed to persuade his Russian counterpart to adopt his three-stage reconstruction plan as the basis for the settlement in Iraq.
Russia is ready for further consultations on Iraq with its partners both bilaterally and within the framework of the UN Security Council.
But in the opinion of the Russian President it is not so much the mechanism of Iraq’s return to peaceful life and the approval of a programme for the country’s reconstruction that matters. The members of the world community have to answer the main question: what world do we want to build and what will be the architecture of international security? The President stressed that if the leading countries of the world manage to solve all these problems properly, that is, on the basis of democracy, equality and respect of each other’s interests, then the Iraq crisis could be quickly and effectively settled.
Vladimir Putin and Leonid Kuchma will continue informal consultations on May 3–4 during the Russian President’s visit to Ukraine. The two leaders intend to discuss topical aspects of political and integration cooperation, including within the CIS, and map out guidelines for the development of bilateral military contacts. After the talks the two Presidents will make final statements to the media.