Vladimir Putin: We continued our consultations yesterday evening and this morning. You know, and the Italian Prime Minister just mentioned this, about our visit to the cruiser Moscow. This is linked with the increasing cooperation between our armed forces, the further integration of Russia into the structure of NATO, and with our plans to increase cooperation in preventing emergencies.
We had the opportunity to examine our new Be-200 plane, which has no equivalent in its technical characteristics. It is several times better than what the world currently has in this sphere. And we understand how effectively we could fight fires, including in Europe, if our countries had such equipment.
We talked about training planned by our servicemen and sailors. As a part of this training, there will be sea rescue exercises. Bearing in mind the tragedy that we experienced today in the Barents Sea in Russia’s Northern Fleet, it is clear that this topic continues to be relevant.
We have a good opportunity for military-technical cooperation with Italy. I am referring to the Yak-130 plane. This is a military and training plane, which we built with our Italian partners. But I should also say that the Be-200, which you saw today, was also worked on in the first stage by Italian specialists.
We talked about these subjects, and I repeat that we have very good prospects. But, along with everything else, joint efforts in these areas will undoubtedly enable us to consolidate Russian and European security, and also stability in the world.
There is another direction for cooperation which we discussed – coordinating our efforts in the common European space. In this sense, the chairmanship of Italy in the EU has great significance for us. We are working on preparing a productive Russia-EU summit in Rome in November.
We still need to discuss several international problems. We discussed the problem of Iraq again this morning, touched on the Middle East, and this is on the agenda for the remaining time – for this evening and tomorrow morning. There are also issues of interaction between Russia and the EU, which are of primary importance for us in the context of our cooperation with the World Trade Organisation, and on several other issues. I repeat that this will be the topic of a special discussion at the summit in November. But now, as part of preparation for this summit, we cannot ignore this topic, and we have also discussed it.
On the whole, I should say that we are satisfied with the talks and consultations. And in conclusion I would like to thank Prime Minister Berlusconi and all our colleagues for the excellent organisation and work, and the atmosphere which was created for this meeting. Thank you for your attention.
Question (Trud newspaper): You observed the demonstration flights of the fire-fighting plane. How do you feel about their possible use in Europe? To what extent can they help fight fires in Europe?
Vladimir Putin: I want to make the Prime Minister’s task easier because I am more familiar with this equipment. I have already said that no one has anything like this plane. It is the best such plane in the world at this moment. Its characteristics are at least twice as good as existing planes. It is, of course, much cheaper than the costs of fires. According to the information that we received from the press, in Portugal alone the damage caused by fires amounts to around 1 billion euros. I am not even talking about other European countries, or about Russia itself. So it is better to have a group, say in the structures of the European Union, which could either acquire or hire planes from the Russian Emergencies Ministry on conditions of leasing. In my opinion, this would be correct and useful. Specialists have just told us about the planes’ capabilities. The plane glides over water and collects it. It can collect 12 tonnes of water in mere seconds, and the modern aviation which is currently used can only take 5.6 tonnes on board. Then it quickly returns to the area of the fire and dumps this water. It is two or three times more effective than what has existed up until now. I don’t want to go into details about the technical characteristics. You have a chance to find out about them. But, in fact, our task is not to advertise our equipment. Our task is to find options of cooperation which will be useful for both Italy and Russia.
Question (Canale 5): You talked about Europe becoming closer to the European Union in an economic and cultural sense, and also in a bureaucratic sense as far as visas are concerned. We know that Europe is currently working on a general defence policy. Don’t you think that Russia should take part in developing a policy of common European defence?
Vladimir Putin: You have touched on a very important issue. Essentially, the further structure of international security will depend on how we solve this problem. In connection with this, I would like to note the unique role which Italy played just recently, when it actively supported the process of creating the Russia-NATO group of 20.
It was in Italy that we signed the document which laid the foundation for a new quality step in cooperation between Russia and NATO. It seems to me that we have already talked about this many times, but nevertheless I will repeat it once more. The process currently underway in Europe under the name of “European security policy” does not cause us any concern or problems. We support this process. For us, only one thing is important: for this process to be clear, understandable and transparent. We are fully prepared to work with NATO and European security structures. I must say that today’s visit of the group of Russian and Italian military ships, the planned training of Russian and Italian sailors, the training of the Russian and French fleets in the north, and the further training of France and Russia in the Mediterranean – all this is proof that the level of trust between Russia and NATO countries, including between Russia and Italy, is growing. I think that this is very important. This is undoubtedly a positive tendency in our cooperation, and we will continue to move further in this direction.
Question (Channel One): How does Russia and the European Union, which belongs to the group of four international intermediaries on the Arab-Israeli regulation process, in accordance with the “road map”, intend to assist in this process?
Vladimir Putin: I don’t think that we are prepared to answer this question in full at the moment, because we have only just reached the problem of Middle East regulation according to our plan of work. This morning we only discussed this problem in general terms. We will discuss this problem today and tomorrow morning. At the same time, I can say that Russia’s approach to the Middle East regulation has not changed. Together with the European Union and the United States, Russia is a co-author of the “road map”. And we will support this process in every way we can. We think that it is absolutely unacceptable to use methods of terror in deciding political issues. And we expect that the Palestinian leadership will do everything it can (when I say “Palestinian leadership”, I mean Arafat) to put an end to the terror. We expect that Israelis and Palestinians will use this unique chance provided by the international community, and will advance towards the realisation of this plan.
Question (La Stampa): President Putin, you contacted Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder yesterday, and have been talking with Silvio Berlusconi for three days. Given that we are now talking about the possibility of passing the new UN resolution on Iraq, what could be the main directions in this area? Could you also comment on the delicate issue of using a UN contingent there under American command?
Vladimir Putin: We hold constant consultations with our partners in the US and Europe, where I indeed constantly discuss international problems with both the President of France and Mr Schroeder. Today and tomorrow, we will discuss these topics with the Italian Prime Minister. Our position on the regulation of Iraq is clear, we have already formulated it. A new UN resolution is indeed possible, and even expedient, but only if the UN plays a significant role in rebuilding Iraq, in organising the economic and political life in the country, if it truly controls the process of democratisation of Iraqi society and creates legitimate power bodies. As for possible participation of international forces in Iraq under American command, we don’t see anything wrong with this. It is possible, and a relevant resolution of the UN Security Council must be passed.