Vremya Novostei: This question is for both Presidents. Russia and Kazakhstan have signed the Caspian Declaration today. Does that mean Moscow and Astana have united against the other littoral states on the Caspian status?
I have another question. Did you discuss the Afghan situation today in the context of tentative threats to Central Asian stability? Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: As for the Caspian status, the problems may find a final solution with agreements between interested countries. President Nursultan Nazarbayev and I wouldn’t like to set up local pressure teams and put pressure on our partners at the negotiation table in settling Caspian problems. All countries interested in settling Caspian problems are our partners and not rivals or opponents. Every country has its interests and approaches. I would like to stress that the Kazakh and Russian approaches have been very close from the start. Both countries proceeded from the need for frontier delineation across the sea bottom. Neither Kazakhstan nor Russia believed from the very start in the idea of frontiers across the water surface – a system that would impede navigation. There are certain details in the approaches to problems related to environmental protection, natural resources, and so on. All that will come up for multi-lateral discussion and can find solution only after agreements are made, and with due consideration for each party’s interests.
As for Afghanistan, we have discussed related problems only in the general political context of the Afghan situation. As you know, Russia is concerned, to an extent, with developments in Afghanistan because the Taliban movement, as far as we know, continues backing terrorism and has done nothing to stop drug trafficking despite its own statements. In this respect, the Russian position almost coincides with the rest of the world. We feel it more acutely since the area is close to our borders. That’s the only difference.
Kazakhstan Today: When will the visa-free travel agreement be signed, and what is the current situation of the Russian Language Foundation?
Vladimir Putin: As for the Bishkek agreements and visa-free travel, I have good reasons not to expect any problems between Russia and Kazakhstan. Our experts have been in contact, and respective agreements will be signed as soon as we work out some technicalities. Russia will make progress in that direction – you needn’t have the slightest doubt about that.