Vladimir Putin: Mr President, friends, colleagues,
I am glad to see many familiar faces in this hall. I am pleased that Russia is so strongly and seriously represented: present here are politicians, State Duma deputies, and regional leaders; business is also widely represented. It is nice to see that the Russian side has taken such a serious view of today’s event.
We in Russia follow life in Kyrgyzstan with great interest and attention. We always sincerely rejoice in the successes of the Kyrgyz people. We highly value your efforts to build civic accord and democracy and accomplish socio-economic tasks. It is with satisfaction that we note the strengthening of our allied relations.
In one of his recent speeches in Moscow, the Kyrgyz President said that Central Asia, as it embarked upon a new spiral of history, would establish a special relationship with Russia and that the future of that region was directly connected with close cooperation with our country. We appreciate these words by the President, fully share his position and are ready to reciprocate. We will develop relations with all the region’s countries.
Today’s forum is a further proof of the strengthening of our contact. Ties between Russia and Kyrgyzstan in the economic sphere have been and remain a solid foundation of our cooperation.
Russia is Kyrgyzstan’s principal foreign trade partner: it accounts for 16% of Kyrgyzstan’s trade. Our mutual trade turnover grows with every year and so does direct Russian investment in the Kyrgyz economy. In the first half of 2003, it increased 60% compared to the same period in 2002.
We realise of course that this is very little in real terms, that these are small figures, but the trend is still good. We welcome the flow of Russian investment into the Kyrgyz economy and support the Kyrgyz Government’s efforts to create a favourable investment climate. We are sure that such a mutually beneficial approach both on the part of Russia and on the part of Kyrgyzstan will lead to positive results.
Russia is interested in Kyrgyzstan’s raw materials and their joint use, and in state cooperation in industry and agriculture.
We are prepared to cooperate in joint programmes and investment projects, above all in transport and energy. It was no accident that today Russia took a decision to make 400 million kilowatts available to Kyrgyzstan, which will be a tremendous help to the country. Kyrgyzstan is thus joining a common grid system, which the Unified Energy System is aligning for the Commonwealth of Independent States. Other countries are under consideration.
Russian companies plan to take part in incorporating Kyrgyz enterprises. This is provided for in a treaty and a programme of economic cooperation signed by the Russian Federation and the Kyrgyz Republic for 2000–2009.
Business contacts between Kyrgyzstan and Russian regions are another important activity. It gives me pleasure to see some Russian regional leaders here. As far as I know, twenty or so regions have come forward with that idea. Some of them are already implementing such projects. And the first priority here is to restore traditional co-production links with a new quality. This, I am sure, will give a powerful impetus to the growth of our mutually beneficial economic partnership.
This forum is to consider concrete joint projects and programmes. Strategic business plans will also be discussed, of course. I would like to see Russian businessmen play a bigger and bolder role in Kyrgyzstan’s economic life. I will be honest: this meets Russia’s interests as a state.
It was not accidental that President Akayev today mentioned the opening of a Russian military base in Kant. The base has good prospects. I am absolutely certain that it will be an important element of regional security and create good conditions for business, too.
But we do not limit ourselves to just military matters. In the morning, we presented Russian state decorations to Kyrgyzstan’s cultural personalities. And that was no accident either. I think everyone in the audience will agree that culture and intellect pave the way for business.
Kyrgyzstan takes serious care of all that. You know that it has adopted a law declaring Russian a second official language. Few other CIS countries have done that.
Kyrgyzstan thinks big and acts accordingly. We should respond accordingly.
But there is more to this than that. Today, the first protocol to grant Russia WTO membership was signed here, in Kyrgyzstan. We are grateful to our Kyrgyz counterparts for understanding the importance of the problem and for their flexible approach, and consider it a good sign that Kyrgyzstan is seriously focused on working with Russia.
I wish the forum participants all the best and success in their future endeavours.