President Vladimir Putin: Mr Secretary of State,
Allow me to welcome you here to Moscow.
It gives me real pleasure to see you here, Mr Secretary of State. Before beginning our talks, I think we should congratulate each other on the fact that the United States has successfully ratified the treaty reducing our strategic nuclear arsenals, and as you know, the State Duma today also ratified the treaty, and very convincingly too, with 294 votes in favour.
Your visit is very timely and gives us a good opportunity to set our watches before the meeting with President Bush in St. Petersburg at the end of May.
We have spoken a lot and have had many arguments over the question of Iraq, but I think we have nonetheless managed to preserve the basic foundation of our bilateral relationship. I very much hope that the meeting with President Bush will give a new boost to further developing bilateral ties in all the different areas we cooperate on.
You have just completed a very difficult and important visit to the Middle East region, and we would like to discuss this region and the issues affecting it with you.
Once again we find ourselves facing terrorism. I refer here to the terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia and to the two terrorist attacks here in Chechnya, one of which took place today.
We have common questions and much work together still ahead on Afghanistan and weapons non-proliferation issues. We would gladly exchange information with you on the problem of North Korea.
Our respective agriculture and atomic energy ministers met recently. I think that in these areas our relations are also developing quite well.