Vladimir Putin: First, I would like to express my satisfaction with the results of our meeting today. Talks with the President of Georgia, Eduard Shevardnadze, have just ended. They have been substantive and highly constructive.
As you know, we have been jointly negotiating with the representatives of Abkhazia. Particular attention was given to the settlement of the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict.
I would like to stress that Russia’s position remains unchanged. We are convinced that the problems that divide Tbilisi and Sukhumi must be tackled in a way that will preserve the territorial integrity of Georgia and ensure the legitimate rights and interests of multi-national Abkhazia. It is our shared opinion that one of the first steps towards settlement should be the secure and dignified return of refugees. Next in line is the restoration of the economic infrastructure in the conflict zone. It has been decided to concentrate on three main areas: the return of refugees, especially to the Gali district, and reopening of the Sochi-Tbilisi railway. The proposal on modernising the Inguria–GES hydroelectric complex has also received support. These and some other agreements are reflected in the final statement we just adopted.
I would particularly like to note the importance of recreating a common economic space. Life has shown that the implementation of mutually beneficial business initiatives and projects diminishes confrontation, contributes to the economic development of the region as a whole and is in the interests of the people who live there. I am convinced that a resumption of talks on a full-scale settlement would ease tensions in the conflict zone and have a stabilising impact on the situation in the Caucasus.
Of course, during our talks today we discussed issues in Russian-Georgian relations and exchanged opinions on key problems of regional and international politics. We discussed Russian-Georgian actions to counter terrorism. Recently, law enforcement bodies and the secret services of our countries have gained some useful experience in jointly counteracting terrorism. We intend to develop cooperation in this area.
I have briefed Mr Shevardnadze about the meeting with the Presidents of Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan held in Moscow on February 23. I told him in detail about the plans for overall economic integration.
In conclusion I would like to express my satisfaction with the results of the meetings and I look forward to successful implementation of all the agreements we have reached.
Eduard Shevardnadze: Mr Putin spoke in great detail about the substance and format of our negotiations today and he has outlined all the main issues and problems that we discussed. I confirm that the question of Abkhazia, the Abkhazia conflict, was the centre of attention. And I am satisfied that we have found common approaches to, and focused on the problems that need to be solved under the current conditions.
President Putin mentioned some concrete problems, including the building of the railway (it is a necessary condition for the return of refugees) and the launching of the Inguri Hydroelectric Plant. Perhaps in future we could bring in foreign capital to build new power plants designed during the Soviet period.
All that is important for bringing about a dramatic improvement of Russian-Georgian relations. Currently, we live well and work well, and we understand each other perfectly well. I appreciate the fact that very good relations have been established between the two Presidents – with you, Mr Putin – which enable us to discuss all the problems that worry our countries and peoples in a perfectly frank and honest manner. I think an important step forward has been made in that sense. And the document agreed on by the Presidents, which is about to be signed quite rightly, makes a special reference to bilateral relations and the framework treaty, the need to speed it up and to complete the work on a bilateral treaty. After the signing of the bilateral treaty I hope that Russian-Georgian relations will strengthen and expand.
As for the document signed by the Presidents of Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus, I think it will call for serious study. I think it is interesting for Georgia too. I do not rule out that in future we will find a form of cooperating with what I would describe as the Big Four.