President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev: Dmitry Anatolyevich [Medvedev], members of the press,
Today here in Astana, President Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev and I are very happy that he has chosen to make his first official visit abroad to Kazakhstan. We think that this decision confirms the close political and economic ties between our countries, our close relations in all different areas, in politics, the economy, culture, and on the international stage. To put this into diplomatic-speak, our relations are that of a priority alliance between our countries and peoples.
For my part, I want to say that relations with Russia have always been the top priority in Kazakhstan’s foreign policy, and will remain so. I think that the relations between our two countries provide the most successful and effective model of bilateral cooperation in the entire post-Soviet area. I met regularly with Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and we were quick to settle any issues that arose. There were no problems that could not be resolved through frank and open dialogue and consideration for our countries’ and peoples’ mutual interests. The talks with Dmitry Anatolyevich show that this positive spirit remains today and that the tradition of close and trusting relations between the leaders of Russia and Kazakhstan will continue. This continuity will benefit both our countries and peoples.
There was much on the agenda for our talks today. We proposed to our Russian counterparts drawing up a long-term agreement on economic cooperation and integration between our countries. This will be an important document because our economies have now reached a level of development that enables us to think and act strategically and take new steps. Our cooperation in the energy sector is precisely an example of the strategic nature of our work together. Kazakhstan exports the bulk of its oil and gas via Russia’s pipeline systems. The reverse process will also take place with plans this year to start delivering Russian oil to China via Kazakhstan. Aside from oil transportation, our countries are also working actively together on developing new oil and gas fields in the Caspian. The establishment of a joint venture at the Orenburg gas processing plant also opens up new opportunities for cooperation. We propose expanding our work in this direction by setting up other joint ventures in the petrochemicals and oil refinery sectors.
Progress has been made in our cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. We have taken steps that give our countries the possibility of becoming major players on the developing market.
Our cooperation in space exploration is also developing well. We just signed two important agreements in this field. We gave close attention to the legal agreements concerning the provision of living conditions and services for Kazakhstanis living at Baikonur.
We discussed projects to build roads and communications infrastructure. As you know, we are working together with Russia on developing an international transport corridor to link Western Europe to Western China via Russia and Kazakhstan. This is a very promising project that would bolster our countries’ positions in the global freight transport system. We also noted the increase in cooperation between our border regions. This is a subject we will discuss in more detail in autumn when the leaders of our border regions hold a forum at Kustanai.
We share the view that innovative economic development is the main recipe for survival in the global competition. We spoke of the need for innovative integration of our countries. We also discussed humanitarian issues, of course, and what we need to do to bring the peoples of Russia and Kazakhstan closer together, give them more opportunities to learn about each other, make contact with each other and establish ties in science, education, medicine, culture, the media, and, of course, business.
The situation in the Commonwealth of Independent States and the other multilateral organisations in which Kazakhstan and Russia are present was an important item on our agenda. As far as the CIS is concerned, we have agreed to work on the principle of addressing one main issue every year. We proposed making cooperation in the energy sector the main issue for 2009.
We had a substantial exchange of views on setting up the customs union, bolstering EurAsEC [Eurasian Economic Community], security and stability cooperation within the CSTO [Collective Security Treaty Organisation], the SCO [Shanghai Cooperation Organisation] and the CICA [Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures].
Our meeting reaffirmed that Kazakhstan and Russia share close positions on key international issues. This is especially important given Russia’s growing influence in the world today and Kazakhstan’s active foreign policy positions.
I once again expressed my profound gratitude for Russia’s active support of Kazakhstan’s presidency of the OSCE.
Today’s meeting with the Russian President fills me with confidence that the relations between our countries are set to grow stronger, affirming the spirit of genuine equality, trust and alliance on which they are built.
I invited Dmitry Anatolyevich to take part in the tenth anniversary celebrations of our new capital, Astana. I am thankful that this invitation has been accepted. The people of Kazakhstan will be pleased to see you at this big celebration. Thank you.
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you.
Nursultan Abishevich [Nazarbayev], ladies and gentlemen, colleagues,
I want to say once again that I am very pleased to have this opportunity to visit hospitable Kazakhstan, and I stress that it is not simply chance, of course, that motivated me to make Astana the first foreign capital I am visiting as President of Russia. It is obvious that this choice was dictated by our special relations and our many years of successful cooperation. Most important of all is that we in Russia value our truly friendly and mutually beneficial relations with Kazakhstan, our strategic partner. Nursultan Abishevich said just now that cooperation between our two countries has gained in dynamism and substance over these last years. We are making active progress in our political dialogue, expanding our economic cooperation and developing our humanitarian ties. Today’s talks confirmed our desire to develop and bring new quality and substance to all possible areas of cooperation. We have agreed to meet regularly and maintain the trusting and open spirit that have characterised our relations over these recent years. These are very good traditions and we will build on them. We will always be available to discuss any issues on the bilateral agenda or in international relations.
Our talks covered a wide range of bilateral issues. We outlined practical steps for the future. We have just signed a joint statement that contains instructions for drawing up a new joint action plan, and we have agreed that this plan will take as its reference the development programmes our respective countries are implementing: the development objectives through to 2020 in Russia, and through to 2030 in Kazakhstan.
Furthermore, given that we now plan our budget three years ahead, the joint action plan will also take this into account. Another of the key items on the agenda was our trade and economic relations, an area in which we have achieved substantial growth – 30 percent – and a good volume overall.
I want to point out that 70 percent of our bilateral trade is between the border regions. This shows the great value of direct contacts between the regions and between leading companies. Growing cooperation between small and medium businesses is extremely important for our countries’ economies. Strong small and medium businesses are the foundation of a healthy society, and these are clearly goals that our countries are pursuing.
It is in our common interests to bolster and support this positive trend by facilitating banking sector cooperation and fostering innovation projects. We agreed to work together on achieving innovation breakthroughs in our countries. The energy sector is important, of course, but the twenty-first century is inconceivable without innovative development. We have plenty of ideas and now we need to work out the technological mechanisms, decide on our priorities and start work.
Of course, fuel and energy sector issues were also on the agenda, as Nursultan Abishevich just said. Work in this area includes major projects such as the construction of the Caspian gas pipeline and increasing the capacity of the Central Asia-Centre pipeline. We agreed that we will continue to pay close attention to these projects.
There are very good prospects in the high-technology field, as has already been said. Today’s agreements on developing cooperation in space exploration and the military-technical sector also open up good new prospects. We signed intergovernmental agreements in these areas today. We also have plans to pursue our integration in the nuclear sector, including by setting up a joint company and through Russia’s participation in the construction of a nuclear power plant.
We have a big nanotechnology programme and we welcome the agreement that was just signed in this area.
Our international agenda is also very important. We discussed in detail all the issues Nursultan Abishevich just mentioned, including making use of all the integration mechanisms to further our integration within the framework of the CIS, EurAsEC, the CSTO, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. I am sure that our common efforts will enable us to make progress in this direction.
We discussed regional and international issues, including the fact that Kazakhstan will hold the presidency of the OSCE in 2010. In this respect, we are ready to provide our Kazakhstani colleagues with all necessary assistance. I would like once again to thank the leadership of Kazakhstan for the warm reception and the very good beginning to this meeting. It is our firm conviction that our cooperation will continue to increase and be enriched with new substantial projects that we will develop for the good of our two peoples.
Question: This question is for both Presidents. Agreements were just signed, two of which concern high-technology sectors. If we’ve understood correctly, the emphasis will be on the space sector, on Baikonur, GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System) and nanotechnology. What changes can we expect to see in these areas and can we expect something new here?
Dmitry Medvedev: These are indeed priority agreements that we have signed. It is not by chance that they were signed today. Our bilateral relations would not be complete without cooperation in these areas. We have good potential for developing cooperation in space technology, work together in outer space, the use of the Baikonur space launch centre, and the Baiterek project. These are all priority projects. At the same time, we realise that these are also competitive fields and we know that we need to establish cooperation mechanisms that are in our own interests and are also of interest to our potential partners.
The world is not standing still. High technology is constantly developing. This is why cooperation in fields such as space communications and digital access technology is so very relevant and of such principle importance to us now.
Nanotechnology is another area in which we can develop our cooperation. Russia has already taken steps to develop this sector and has established a special financial fund for this purpose. But it is clear that if we do not cooperate with our closest partners our work in this area would not be complete. All the more so as there are numerous examples of how we can help each other, using the technological developments and concepts that our colleagues in Kazakhstan are also coming up with. I think therefore that this is a very good example of the way in which we can develop our economic cooperation. In our more traditional areas of cooperation we do not even always notice the development process simply because these sectors are already well developed and the process takes care of itself. But in the high-tech sectors, in space technology, space cooperation and nanotechnology, the state needs to be as attentive as possible. I think these are all areas that offer us excellent prospects.
Nursultan Nazarbayev: As far as concerns the use of the Baikonur space launch centre, the media are well aware, I think, that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, people were asking themselves what would happen to Baikonur, and would it become a bone of contention or go into decline? Huge amounts of money went into building this space launch centre, but we have used it for the benefit of space science in Russia and in Kazakhstan. After traversing a difficult period, we now have new possibilities and we have reached an agreement on building a new launch complex and the new Angara rocket, which will use environmentally friendly fuel and will be used jointly by Russia and Kazakhstan. This programme is already up and running. With Russia’s help, we launched our first satellite, KazSat-1, and we are now preparing to launch a second satellite. As Anatoly Nikolayevich Perminov [head of Russian space agency Roskosmos] said, with two satellites in orbit, Kazakhstan can be said to have joined the ranks of the space powers. He does not refute this status but, on the contrary, confirms it. More so, only a few years ago, Kazakhstan’s participation in as ambitious a programme as GLONASS would have seemed unthinkable. This project is at the cutting edge of technology. Europe is working in this field. The whole world is getting involved. We all know this.
Dmitry Anatolyevich and I discussed innovative technology in great detail today. I listened to the speeches and statements he made during his election campaign. The defence industry and space sector aside, both Russia and Kazakhstan are at least 30–40 years behind when it comes to technology. We need to work on the kinds of innovative technology that will boost our production capacity, pushing up productivity by around 20 percent. If it cannot achieve these kinds of results it is not innovative technology. New developments in this area are emerging in both Kazakhstan and Russia. Of course, Russia has resources, possibilities and potential on a different scale, but we in Kazakhstan have not been idle. We began drafting an industrial innovation programme in 2003 and launched the programme two years ago. We have established special development institutes, set up special funds and allocated the necessary budget funding. We now have 82 projects underway in Kazakhstan. I think they will be of interest for Russia too, including in the nanotechnology field. This is the technology of the twenty-first century. If we do not seize the initiative in this area now our generation will find it difficult to keep up with subsequent technological developments. I think these technologies are very promising and very important for our countries and for our peoples, who look to the future with hope.
Question: Dmitry Anatolyevich, you are making your first visit abroad as President to Kazakhstan. As far as I know, the Russian Government has set up a new agency for CIS affairs. Can we expect anything new, any changes in Russia’s policy towards its closest neighbours?
Dmitry Medvedev: I think that we are simply obliged to pay the closest attention to cooperation with the CIS countries. The fact that this agency did not exist previously does not mean, of course, that we did not pay attention to these matters in the past. But today’s demands oblige us to intensify our contacts. If we want to develop new forms of cooperation and integration we need to think about how to give our contacts with our close friends and colleagues from the CIS countries a new technological framework so that the decisions we make are implemented on schedule, not put on the back-burner, and so that our agreements have direct effect. This is why I decided to set up this agency, so that all the issues concerning cooperation with the CIS countries can be coordinated as a separate bloc.
I hope that as a result, some of the projects we think perhaps have not been moving as fast as we would have liked will now pick up the pace and make progress.
I realise that the creation of any new organisation represents only our objectives for the future and is not a solution to the problem in itself, but it does demonstrate our intentions. Russia’s position is that the CIS countries are our most important partners. This will remain our position and it is in this light that this decision should be interpreted. As for a change of priority, there will be no change in our priorities of course; on the contrary, by taking this step we are showing that this priority remains just as important as ever.
Nursultan Nazarbayev: We hope that our plans to create the Eurasian Union will move ahead faster now.
To mention another important matter, concerning the space sector, since the head of Roskosmos is present here, two of our guys have undergone space flight training at Star City, and we have agreed that they will be on the list of those who will fly into space.
Dmitry Medvedev: We agreed that we will do everything we can to bring this moment closer. I have issued instructions to our agency to intensify contacts on this issue with our international partners.
Question: Dmitry Anatolyevich, discussion is underway on opening a new waterway between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. In particular, there is talk of expanding the Volga-Don Canal. Did you make progress on this project during the talks today? What is the outlook for this project?
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you for this question. I hope that this will be a project with a good future, because we need to develop infrastructure and it is essential that we look at how we can develop communication routes, taking into account the increase in trade and economic growth. There are two options we can consider. Incidentally, it was Nursultan Abishevich who revived this idea, and I think it was a very timely move. As I said, there are two options. One is to expand the Volga-Don Canal, and the other is the Eurasia project. Both have their merits, and both also have their problems no doubt. It is the task of the state authorities to weigh up all these pluses and minuses and, with a full and clear picture of the situation, make a decision. We are currently at the stage of making a final expert assessment. Funds have been specially earmarked for carrying out this assessment and we will make a decision based on its results. In whatever case, the decision will be in the interests of both Russia and Kazakhstan.
Nursultan Nazarbayev: If you permit, I would like to add a few words, Dmitry Anatolyevich.
Dmitry Medvedev: Of course.
Nursultan Nazarbayev: the Russian government has examined this matter and carried out all the necessary studies. This is not a new idea.
We often hear in the media that Kazakhstan wants its pipelines to bypass Russia. But we do not want to bypass anyone, and certainly not Russia.
Every country, including Russia, must look for its own interests and be able to choose the best transport route.
There is the Eurasia project, for example, which would link the Caspian and the Sea of Azov. True, when we last met, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin suggested making the link direct to the Black Sea, given that there are navigation difficulties on the Sea of Azov.
The Volga-Don Canal has very limited throughput and freight transport capacity. The Eurasia Canal could be built in such a way that goods from Central Asia and perhaps even from Western China could be transported to the Black Sea via Russian territory.
All of this needs to be studied, of course. The issue is complex. We can find private investors. There are already many potential investors interested in the project. But there are also the bureaucratic interests of various ministries involved, as is always the case.
The Volga-Don Canal could be repaired and put into order. But this could cost us a huge amount of money and produce no result. As Dmitry Anatolyevich rightly said, the experts need to give their opinion. I think the project is very interesting and very much needed. I think we will all benefit from it.
Question: My question is for both Presidents. Nursultan Abishevich, today you proposed drawing up a long-term agreement on economic cooperation and integration between Kazakhstan and Russia. What can we expect from this document? I would also like to hear Dmitry Anatolyevich’s view.
Nursultan Nazarbayev: We have always worked on the basis of agreements and work programmes, and we have always gone beyond the objectives set out in these documents. Our programmes for 2005–2008 are coming to an end, and so we discussed the drafting of new agreements. I think it is the right approach to have a long-term component to our agreements, for a ten-year period, say, and to finance it based on the three-year budgets, given that Kazakhstan is also moving to a three-year budget. This document will be drawn up and it will cover not only economic issues but also humanitarian, transport, infrastructure, financial matters and so on.
Dmitry Medvedev: There is not much I can add. Like Nursultan Abishevich, I think that relations between countries such as Russia and Kazakhstan should have a framework of clear long-term agreements. We need to make progress in this respect, not just reaffirming our commitment to medium-term plans but moving towards full-fledged long-term cooperation.
I spoke about this just before. Our countries have adopted development programmes for decades ahead, and this should be directly reflected in our cooperation. If we are close partners and are moving towards integration with each other, we must coordinate our plans for the years ahead. Most important is that our economies have reached a level of development today that makes it possible for us not just to talk about our intentions in these areas but to actually calculate the costs. Our budget planning system now has a clearly defined technological basis, after all. Overall, despite the current global financial problems, we have every reason to be looking at developing our cooperation in the long-term perspective. This is all the more true now we have a much greater diversity of areas to consider, from our traditional energy sector cooperation and humanitarian ties to the new areas we just mentioned before. There are a number of tasks that we can resolve together. We can work together on technological progress and developing digital and communications technology. We simply must move forward. We need to take truly great strides forward in this area. A long-term agreement of this kind will be nothing but beneficial in this respect.
I think that this is the way of the future.