Vladimir Putin: …One of the central themes discussed at this meeting was the development of relations between Russia and the European Union. It gives me special pleasure to mention the attitude taken by Mr Silvio Berlusconi, which is that only together with Russia is it possible to build a common European economic, energy, cultural, educational and legal space.
It is hard to disagree with his argument that only jointly is it possible to reliably safeguard all residents, all citizens of European countries, all those living in the Greater Europe, against war, terror and violence.
We discussed at length new mechanisms for relations between Russia and NATO. The objectives of that organisation and of Russia are common in many ways. They are above all the fight against terror, settlement of regional conflicts, and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
I informed the Italian head of government about our approaches to and initiatives on strategic stability and the progress of negotiations with our American partners on this problem.
We also discussed at length such regional conflicts as the Middle East and Afghanistan.
I am pleased to note that our positions are close. We are convinced that only by combining the efforts of the world community is it possible to effectively counter present-day threats on the basis of international law and the UN Charter. To achieve these objectives, we will continue our cooperation within the framework of the G8.
Question: Do Russia and Italy share a common stance on the Middle East issue? What do you think of the refusal by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to announce a ceasefire?
Vladimir Putin: Russia’s stance on this issue is well known. We condemn terrorism in all manifestations and do not consider that acts of terror can achieve political results. This fully applies to victims of terror among Israeli citizens.
At the same time, we are acting on the premise that reciprocal actions must be adequate to the threat. And in that sense we consider that actions by the Israeli side must be comparable to what the State of Israel and its citizens face in today’s situation.
We regret and mourn victims on both sides. And we urge both sides to end the bloodshed as soon as possible.
There is one more aspect I would like to draw your attention to. There are holy shrines in the conflict area. They concentrate humankind’s heritage and the spiritual and cultural values that belong to all humanity. As hostilities develop, their preservation is threatened.
I think both sides should show a sense of responsibility and restraint, and not let the spiritual values I mentioned above be damaged.
Russia, together with the UN, the US and Europe, is prepared to make a contribution as a broker to the settlement of the conflict.
Question (to Silvio Berlusconi): Practically all political and public personalities have recently been saying many good words about the coordination between Russia and the European countries. What do you think is more here, words or actions, and is it not time to suit the actions to the words?
Vladimir Putin (in a follow-up to Silvio Berlusconi): Mr Berlusconi just now rightly recalled that unfortunately there is a certain ballast in our relations, in Russia’s relations with the rest of the world which have taken almost seventy years to shape. Of course, this cannot be dismissed out of hand. But I can assure you that Mr Berlusconi is one of those European political figures who advocate Russia’s earliest integration into the international community. In an informal atmosphere in Sochi yesterday, we took up many topics. We talked long into the night, ending at 1 a.m., and I can safely say that this is really so. For which I am grateful to him and look forward to our productive cooperation in the future. I do not doubt that it will be so.