President Vladimir Putin: My colleagues and I are pleased to have come to Kazakhstan at the beginning of the year. Also, I would like to once again thank President of Kazakhstan for the invitation. We have things to discuss and the President has said that we have reached a record high level of economic collaboration: $5.5 billion last year. This is a very good figure. However, I agree that we have not done everything we could yet and we can easily double, at the very least, bilateral trade and economic ties very quickly.
Today, Russia has taken the baton and our Kazakh friends and we are opening the Year of Russia in Kazakhstan. The Year of Kazakhstan in Russia was highly successful and I would like to again express my gratitude today to all our colleagues who had organised and took a direct part in more than 150 events of the Year of Kazakhstan in Russia.
Our meetings in Astana show once again that Russia and Kazakhstan have been and remain reliable partners. Proof of that is the practical results I have mentioned above.
Our co-operation is developing in many areas. Today we spoke about the development of this co-operation in the fuel and energy sector, trade, investments, technologies and space exploration.
Our accords have been sealed in a large portfolio of agreements. I would like to draw your attention to the agreement on the development of co-operation in the effective use of the Baikonur space centre. It provides for prolonging the lease of the spaceport and practical involvement of Kazakh and Russian specialists in space exploration, one of the most promising hi-tech spheres.
Another major step was the signing of the Treaty of Co-operation and Interaction in Border Issues, designed to strengthen collaboration between our border services and make our joint efforts to cut off smuggling and drug trafficking more effective.
I would like also to mention the agreement signed by our businessmen. I mean the agreements reached by LUKoil and KazMunaigaz, which open up broad vistas for the joint development of Caspian resources.
Ties between out regions have become more intensive and productive; today, they ensure over 60% of bilateral trade. It is no coincidence that our delegation includes the heads of the Russian regions that are directly involved in this collaboration – the governors of the Saratov, Orenburg and Omsk regions.
The President of Kazakhstan has spoken about our collaboration on the international scene. I would like to speak about our joint efforts in the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, Eurasec, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation and, certainly, the CIS. Kazakhstan is making a substantial contribution and – I want to stress it — it is not only an organisational but also a conceptual and intellectual contribution.
Kazakh specialists are working on these documents very actively and their suggestions in fact comprise the core of what is suggested within the framework of the common economic space.
We highly value the consistent line of the Kazakh leadership for promoting integration.
And lastly, during our meeting we also exchanged opinions on the key international and regional problems as a whole. We spoke about harmonising our stands on the international scene in the broad meaning of the word, including in the UN. The main thing we must do is to retain the mutual attraction of our peoples rooted in history and the long-standing traditions of friendship and brotherhood as a driving force and foundation of our collaboration. This was the ultimate goal of all our efforts in the past year and, in fact, our presence here at the signing of such a solid block of documents is proof that our specialists, departments and business communities worked hard in 2003 and we have reached a new stage of collaboration, which makes me happy.
Today and tomorrow we shall hold more talks with the President of Kazakhstan on a wide range of issues of collaboration. I am convinced that they will be fruitful.
Question: Russia and Kazakhstan are believed to have the closest attitudes to economic and political reforms. How do you as the heads of state plan to use this advantage?
Putin: In my opinion, we should above all remove the barriers that hinder co-operation. We have discussed this in considerable detail. I mean above all infrastructure, transport, communications, border and customs issues. We must do everything so that the natural advantages of our economies can be used in the best possible way to quickly remove bureaucratic barriers. This is what we shall be doing on the bilateral level and within the framework of the common economic space.
Question: The Russo-Kazakh border is one of the longest in the world but it is not fully delimited yet. Why has its delimitation been delayed? Will this issue be settled this year?
Putin: There are no political reasons but there are purely technical problems that call for additional work by specialists. I think that you and your readers understand what I mean. I mean above all the 2–3% of the border, its separate sections. The President of Kazakhstan has spoken about the railway lines here. This is a unique situation: Russian railway lines run for 300 kilometres across Kazakhstan, while Kazakh railway lines run for 100–150 kilometres across Russia. Some parts of the border divide the railway lines in half, which affects the movement of cargoes that are delivered in large amounts from Kazakhstan to Russia and from Russia to Kazakhstan. This calls for specialists’ close attention, so that the compromises, which, I am sure, will be attained, suit both sides. I am convinced that this will be the case. Our experts believe that this work can be finished in 2004.
Question: Documents on the joint development of the Caspian Sea were signed barely a year ago. What progress has been made?
Putin: I want to confirm what the President of Kazakhstan has said here. The demand of the global economy for energy is growing. Russia and Kazakhstan can increase the production of hydrocarbons and we shall do it. We are aware of our responsibility and have a realistic view of our capabilities and advantages.
We shall try to prevent the world energy market from running a fever; instead, the global economy should develop rhythmically and largely on the basis of stable deliveries from our region, meaning Central Asia (in particular Kazakhstan) and Russia. We are considering ways to solve the transport problem; we have certain plans and intend to carry them out, including jointly. We have quite a few joint plans.
The Kazakh President has mentioned the Baltic region. We have not yet discussed the northern routes in Russia, including the possible route to Murmansk, and so on; we will speak about it later today and tomorrow. We have many models of joint work.
As for our co-operation in the Caspian area, we are satisfied with its progress. As you know, today two firms – LUKoil and the state Kazakh firm – have signed one more document on joint operation, thus taking one more step ahead in the development of Caspian co-operation. We are waiting for the decisions that should be made in Kazakhstan, in particular as part of the improvement of the Kazakh product-sharing legislation. We know that efforts are being taken towards this end. On the whole, we are satisfied with the rate of this work and think that 2004 will become a year of the beginning of joint development of certain fields on the basis of principles we have co-ordinated before.
Question: How will Kazakh specialists take part in space exploration programmes after the prolongation of the Baikonur lease?
Putin: We discussed this issue yesterday. We believe that Kazakhstan has not only Baikonur, which it inherited from the former Soviet Union, but also a very good intellectual potential. Co-operation in this sphere should not be limited to the orbiting of say, Kazakh communication satellites by Russian rockets, though this is important, too. We should join efforts in peaceful space exploration in the broadest meaning of the word. Kazakh and Russian specialists have plans for joint work in this area and I do not doubt for a minute that they will be implemented.