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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen, members of the press,
Prime Minister of Great Britain David Cameron and I have just finished our talks. Their main result was probably that we have taken an important step towards ensuring that we have a high level of constructive and fruitful relations that reflect the state of our countries and societies today. This is without exaggeration an important event in our bilateral ties, and I hope it will contribute to developments at the overall European level too.
We take the view that we have much in common and that there is far more uniting our countries than dividing them, and even if we do not always share exactly the same approach on this or that issue, this is nothing so serious. The main thing is to make sure that any such differences do not negatively affect the general trend of our relations.
We put the emphasis today on resuming the political dialogue. We discussed international affairs, going over all of the current issues on the international agenda, including the situation in North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. The global crisis has made it clear that we all must look for ways to build a modern post-crisis world order. The Prime Minister and I have discussed this issue on many occasions at the G8 and G20 summits, and of course we talked about this today, too.
While our political relations have undergone the stagnation we know over recent years, our economic ties have been doing quite well. Last year, our bilateral trade was up by a quarter and came to around $16 billion, and in the first half of this year it has increased almost by half again. This is a good result, all the more so as it is not just our trade but also our reciprocal investment that is on the increase. Our task now is to give this investment the guarantees it requires, ensure the needed legal environment applies, and make this investment itself a mutually profitable undertaking. I am talking about both British companies’ investment in Russia, and Russian companies’ investment in Britain.
We have made a big advance in deepening our partnership in the high-technology field. We just signed a declaration on a knowledge-based modernisation partnership, the aim of which is to give our relations a modernisation agenda that will take them beyond the obvious raw materials and energy sectors, optimise them and give them a broader base. I hope this memorandum will serve us in this work.
It is important to develop our humanitarian cooperation too, expand the contacts between ordinary people, students, teachers, scientists and cultural figures, not to mention businesspeople of course. There are quite a few examples, such as the Russian delegation’s participation in the London Book Fair in April, and the unveiling of a monument to Yury Gagarin in London as part of the Russian-British Year of Space. I think this too is a symbol of our good cultural ties and good relations in the humanitarian sphere in general.
Our countries will both soon be hosting the Olympic Games, and this is an important area in which we can work together, as are technology, investment, and security cooperation. I think these are all areas that will become increasingly relevant over the coming years, and we agreed that we will expand our cooperation on these matters.
I want to thank my colleague, David Cameron, for this good and candid discussion. We already formed a good relationship at the various summits at which we first met and got to know each other. I now give the floor to David.
Prime Minister of Great Britain David Cameron: Thank you, Mr President. Thank you, Dmitry. I agree that we had an excellent conversation this morning.
First of all, I want to express my condolences to the families of those killed in the plane crash in Yaroslavl.
I think it is a year since we first met in Canada and we’ve had good meetings since then because Britain shares with Russia many interests and challenges from trade to security at home and abroad; from culture to education and sport and research. Britain – as the President has said – invests more here than almost any other country and our bilateral trade is worth almost £12 billion and accelerating. We work together to counter piracy in the Indian Ocean and on issues like Iran and the Middle East peace process and financial stability in the G8 and G20, almost all of which we’ve discussed this morning.
So as I said at Moscow State University this morning, if we can build a stronger relationship I believe both our countries will gain. Of course it’s no secret that there are difficult issues where we differ. We can’t pretend these don’t exist; we must continue to have frank discussions about them as we’ve had today. At the same time, without wishing these issues away, it is right to rebuild a more effective relationship on those things that are vital to the safety and well-being of people in Russia and in Britain. So I’m pleased the President and I have agreed to strengthen our co-operation in a number of areas.
First, on our commercial relationship we agreed on the need to increase trade and investment between Britain and Russia and on the partnership we’ve just signed to support modernisation. It’s good for Britain and British jobs to connect our economy to faster growing parts of the world like Russia. And it’s good for Russia too because Britain is strong in the financial and business services and sectorial expertise that a high-tech and diversified economy needs. Today we’re announcing £215 million worth of new commercial deals, creating 500 jobs back home and safeguarding thousands more, from engineering companies like AECOM working on the new Moscow-Saint Petersburg highway, to small companies like Global Immersion providing cutting-edge technology for the Moscow Planetarium. And there’s a new joint company launching today to create a state of the art pharmaceutical plant here in Moscow and 300 jobs back in Britain. And this growing business is why British Airways is today announcing more seats on its London to Moscow route.
We’ve also agreed to work together on new technology in areas like civil nuclear power. This will pave the way for Rolls-Royce to win a substantial share of Russian-backed projects to develop nuclear reactors elsewhere, with wider benefits for the 250 British companies involved in the nuclear supply chain. I’m delighted that Rosatom and Rolls-Royce have signed that agreement today.
On international issues, we agreed on the importance of completing Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organisation. We discussed the need to ensure security and confidence for Georgia and Russia implementing the 2008 ceasefire in full. We also discussed key issues on the agenda of the Security Council and G20. On Libya, I’ve strongly welcomed Russia’s role at the Paris conference and Russia’s recognition of the National Transitional Council. We agreed to support a Libyan-led and UN-backed transition to build a united, stable and democratic Libya and we discussed ways to tackle the danger of surface-to-air missiles getting into the wrong hands.
On Syria, I was interested to hear more about the recent messages that Russia has sent the Assad regime. We agreed the UN has a role to play to end the violence and support a genuine process of real reform and to continue discussions on a UN resolution.
We’ve had a productive meeting; there’s more work to do today and more conversations to be had. I very much look forward to the rest of my visit and to working with President Medvedev on all of these important issues. Thank you very much for the warm welcome you’ve given me today, Mr President.
Dmitry Medvedev: Our British friends are used to working independently, so I will have to do the same.
Let’s begin the news conference by giving the floor first of all to the Russian media.
Question: Russian-British relations are a paradox. Britain regained first place in terms of investment in the Russian economy last year, but at the same time, political contacts have all but frozen over the last six years. Did you manage to change this situation in any way today, achieve any breakthroughs, or resolve any of the issues that have been putting such a brake on our cooperation over these last years?
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. If you look at our faces, you’ll see that there is nothing very frozen about David and I. We are quite warm, actually. Looking at our relations, yes, our trade, economic, and investment relations have indeed been very good, excellent, I would even say, although here too there is still room for improvement.
I already mentioned the figure of $40 billion that British companies have invested here, but the structure of this investment is far from ideal because it is concentrated in financing hydrocarbon trading operations. Ideally, we would like to see a somewhat different investment balance emerge. There are therefore things to work on as far as our trade and economic relations go, even with the good results we have. I am very happy to see the British business delegation that has come to discuss development of trade and investment relations with their Russian colleagues. This is very good.
As for our political contacts, they have never stopped. It is another matter that a number of complex issues have complicated these ties. David and I began discussing these issues a while ago now, and this visit to the Russian Federation is the outcome of these discussions of the various questions, both the easy and the not so easy. I think then that we have succeeded in clearing some of the difficulties that existed, though this does not mean that we have sorted out all of the complicated issues yet.
There are indeed some matters on which our positions differ, but the main thing here is that we are direct and upfront about these issues, stating our position and explaining what is acceptable to us from a legal point of view, and what we cannot accept, again, from a legal point of view. After all, it is the legal issues that are central here, not the political assessment, while our job is that of practical politics.
David will correct me, perhaps, if I’ve got it wrong at all.
David Cameron: I very much agree that Britain and Russia have very strong business-to-business relationships; we have very strong people-to-people relationships. In terms of the government relationship, it’s not been frozen. President Medvedev and I have had very good meetings over the last year. Of course we haven’t solved every problem. As I said in my statement, there are difficulties and problems between the two governments, but these are issues that we are working on and while we’re doing that we don’t see any reason why we can’t try, at the same time, to build a stronger relationship. And that is what I think today’s meeting starts to do and the agreements that have been signed by businesses and, indeed, between the two governments. The discussions we want to have about things like the World Trade Organisation, the Olympics, energy co-operation, these are all issues we want to make progress on even as we have the difficulties in our relationship that we don’t ignore.
Question: Thank you. Prime Minister, the Russian Foreign Minister has said you should move on from talking about the Litvinenko case. Will you? Do you think that Britain and Russia can have normal relations if it’s not sorted out? And Mr Medvedev, would you like Britain to stop talking about the Litvinenko case and do you think that there can be normal relations if Britain does not?
David Cameron: As I said, there are still issues between the two governments. It’s not so much a question of whether we go on talking about them. The question is there are legal issues and in Britain we have a legal system that is independent of the government and those legal avenues have to be pursued in the proper way and government should help with that and shouldn’t stand in the way of that. But as we’ve discussed this morning, while these difficulties and disagreements between us remain, we’re not changing our views on those issues, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pursue stronger business relations, stronger commercial relations, we shouldn’t work together on issues like stability and peace in the Middle East, we shouldn’t work together to try and work out the very best that the world can do at the G20 in Cannes. It’s absolutely vital for Russia, vital for Britain that those meetings are productive, that we solve the problems of the Eurozone, the problems of debt and we get the world economy to move on. So we’re committed to building a stronger relationship even while some of the problems and issues between us haven’t been resolved.
Question: Mr President, do you want Britain to stop talking about Litvinenko?
Dmitry Medvedev: I agree with much of what my colleague just said. We need to look at any case, any circumstances, above all from the legal viewpoint and not from any other angle. Any politicisation is harmful.
Our legal systems differ, and even their roots go back to slightly different sources. But at the same time, of course we need to communicate and look for solutions. If we have not yet managed to find a solution, however, we should admit that in certain cases, including the investigation into the Litvinenko case, the differences in our legal systems mean that our positions are not quite the same. But this should not become an obstacle to other contacts. We are ready to discuss any matter if needed, basing our positions on our country’s laws of course.
Question: I have a question for both leaders. Moscow and London both support the adoption of a UN resolution on Syria, it seems, but, as far as I understand, cannot agree on exactly what it should say. Mr Medvedev and Mr Cameron, could you tell us just why you are having such trouble reaching an agreement when you both share the same goal of bringing peace to Syria?
I have a second question, if you permit: did you discuss the fight against terrorism, and is counterterrorism cooperation even possible when the British intelligence services have suspended their ties with the FSB? Did you discuss any resumption of ties between the British and Russian intelligence services?
Dmitry Medvedev: You are right on target with your question. We did indeed discuss Syria during the first part of our talks today, and this is indeed one issue on which we have different impressions and do not share quite the same position, even though there is practical cooperation between us.
As I see it, this difference is nothing dramatic, but it does exist. Russia’s position is that we need a resolution on Syria that is firm while at the same time balanced and addressed to both parts of the country, or rather, both sides in the Syrian conflict: the official authorities headed by Bashar al-Assad; and the opposition. We think that only a resolution of this kind will have a chance of success.
Second, the resolution should be tough, but should not entail automatic imposition of sanctions, because Syria is already under a large number of sanctions imposed by the European Union and the USA, and there is absolutely no need to add to this pressure that already exists.
Finally, very important in my view is that the resolution on Syria, when it is adopted, must not turn into something like Resolution 1973, not in terms of its content, which is very broad, but in terms of practical implementation. This issue has been at the centre of our discussions with our British and other colleagues. I hope that these discussions will result in a draft that we can all accept.
On the subject of counterterrorism cooperation, this is indeed an important area of work. Let’s just remember the anniversary marked in the USA yesterday. It has been 10 years now since the terrorist attacks that shook the whole world and changed the face of our planet. Our countries have had their own tragedies too and mark their own anniversaries dedicated to the memory of those killed by terrorism. This subject is therefore of immense importance for Russia, Britain, and other countries too. We need to do all we can to make our counterterrorism cooperation as constructive, open and honest as possible as to achieve practical results and share information with each other. In this respect I think that the time is indeed ripe to revive the contacts not just between our law enforcement agencies but also between our intelligence services. We are ready to discuss different possibilities for how to go about this.
David Cameron: On Syria, I think there is some level of agreement that what is happening in Syria is unacceptable, that what President Assad is doing to his own people is wrong, that the violence needs to stop. But there is a difference in perspective between Britain and Russia on this issue, and we don’t hide that. We’ve had discussions, because we want to move ahead and try and get a good UN resolution. I think the differences are clearly Britain would like to go further. We don’t see a future for President Assad and his regime in Syria. We think it has lost legitimacy and he must stand aside. But nonetheless, we want to work together to try and get the best possible UN resolution to show that the world wants to make a clear statement about what is happening in Syria, and that’s backed up, obviously, by the action we have taken at the European level, where we have put in place travel bans, asset freezes, and indeed quite tough sanctions on Syrian oil. But it’s an issue we will go on discussing.
In terms of counterterrorism, clearly we have a common interest in combating violent Islamic extremism. It’s something I think we are going to discuss over lunch. We haven’t changed the arrangements between our security services, which were frozen at the time of the Litvinenko issue, and that’s not being discussed as something that is going to change, but I think we can talk about how we co-operate in terms of combating criminality, how our police services, how our Serious and Organised Crime Agency work together in the future, and that’s something we can discuss, as I say, over lunch.
Question: Prime Minister, I am still not entirely clear. How can you come here and bang the drum for British business while the suspected killer of Alexander Litvinenko is being protected by the Russian state? I don’t understand how you can park the issue without being accused of putting trade before human rights. Can you confirm that you will raise this with Mr Putin later?
Mr President, if I could give you a question. Can you explain why a British businessman should invest in Russia when he faces the possibility of intimidation, corruption and an inconsistent rule of law? Finally, Mr Cameron suggested this morning that the KGB tried to recruit him on a visit here in 1985. Do you think he would have made a good KGB agent?
David Cameron: The answer to that last question I think is no. Let’s be clear about that. First of all, on the issue of Litvinenko, this issue hasn’t been parked. The fact is that the two governments don’t agree. We don’t agree with each other about this issue and it’s an important issue to the United Kingdom. I’m not downplaying it in any way. William Hague spoke to Litvinenko’s widow before coming to Russia. It remains an issue between Britain and Russia, and we haven’t changed our position about that and the Russians haven’t changed their position. But I don’t think that means that we freeze the entire relationship. What we should do, as two mature and sensible countries, is try and see if we can build a relationship that’s in our mutual interest, covering important areas that will help us both.
We both need to see growth in trade and investment and jobs. We both want to see progress and stability in the Middle East. We both want to deal with issues like nuclear proliferation and the danger of arms getting into the wrong hands. There is a bilateral agenda for Britain and Russia that needs to be progressed and should be progressed, and there’s also a whole set of international issues where we meet together at the G8, the G20, the United Nations, climate change, where we should understand each other’s positions and try and work with each other. It’s not parking an issue; it’s just recognising there is a disagreement. That hasn’t changed. The two countries aren’t changing their arrangements because of it, but we should work on our relationship beyond it. I think that is the right thing to do, and that’s why when Dmitry Medvedev asked me to Russia, I agreed to come and have enjoyed undertaking this visit. Now, for the question about my conversations by the Black Sea in Yalta, I will leave it to Dmitry to answer.
Dmitry Medvedev: On the subject of our legal systems, colleagues, I think we all need to learn to respect each other’s legal traditions and foundations. If my memory serves me correctly, article 61 of the Russian Constitution states plainly that a Russian citizen cannot be extradited or handed over to a foreign country for trial or investigation. No matter what happens, we will not do this, and we all need to understand and respect this.
We have plenty of questions of our own regarding the way particular decisions are implemented in Britain, say. But we do not make a fuss about it. The point I am stressing is that we need to show respect for each other’s legal systems, and on the question of extraditing our own citizens, no matter who is involved, the answer is always going to be the same: it is not possible. I ask you to remember that.
As for how to do business together when Russia has still not yet vanquished corruption, let me say that if you make that your condition for business ties, it would be extremely difficult to work in most of the world, because, regrettably, corruption exists in all societies. Let me reveal a secret you perhaps don’t know and tell you that it exists even in Britain too.
But this does not stop us from trading with Britain and investing in the British economy. Of course, all of this does not mean that we should not fight corruption. We do indeed have a corruption problem and a widespread one too. We need to take systemic measures to vanquish corruption, not so as to make ourselves more attractive to foreign investors, but in order to put our own economy in order, and we are working on just this task.
Finally, to answer the last part of your question, I am sure that David would have made a very good KGB agent, but then he would never have become prime minister of Britain.