President Vladimir Putin: Dear colleagues and friends! The agreements ratified by the parliaments of our countries will indeed in many ways determine future relations between Russia and Ukraine. They are the treaty on the Russian-Ukrainian border, on cooperation in use of the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait.
On this matter, I would like to express my gratitude to the parliaments of the two countries of Ukraine and Russia, the specialists and deputies who did extensive, coordinated, necessary and effective work. I am certain that when these documents come into effect, along with the ratification of the agreement on a Single economic space, the foundation of strategic partnership between Russia and Ukraine will be seriously strengthened, and new possibilities for internal political dialogue will be opened, along with equal business and cultural cooperation.
I would also like to note that the specialists, government and parliaments of the two countries have found balanced and mutually beneficial decision on the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait. These decisions take into account the interests of Ukraine and the Russian Federation, and, which is particularly important, give a powerful stimulus to cooperation in priority areas such as shipping and shipping safety, fishing and protection of the environment.
The people who live in these regions know what I am talking about. They face these problems now and hope that after the signing and ratification of these documents, we will solve all problems effectively to overcome everything that hinders the development of the economy, the development of cooperation in these regions.
The treaty on the state border, of course, has particular significance. And I repeat once more: historically, our people, of course, are the closest neighbours, friends, partners and relatives. Today Russian-Ukrainian borders should of course unite our citizens, should serve the development of business and cultural cooperation, and free interaction between people.
I should tell you that Russia is making this step consciously. By signing and ratifying the Treaty on the border with Ukraine, we are doing everything to overcome what hinders the development of our intergovernmental ties, and remove any obstacles for the development of our relation. But this is not done to divide the nations, but to unite them – to unite them in the sense of creating favourable conditions for the development of intergovernmental ties, for the development of the economy of the two countries, and for the development of relations in the humanitarian sphere.
And in conclusion, I want to thank Leonid Danilovich and all our Ukrainian colleagues for their hospitality, for giving us the opportunity to meet and work today. I want to thank all our specialists who have done this major, difficult, and I want to stress once more, effective work, which is being concluded today. Thank you very much for your attention.
Question: How is the situation developing now in the gas-transport consortium, and has the scheme of managing the enterprise been finally confirmed, and which countries besides Germany are showing interest in this project?
Vladimir Putin: This is a difficult question, but a very important one for the development of energy sectors in both Ukraine and Russia. We were the initiators of this – when I say we, I mean myself and the Ukrainian President.
Work has begun on this project. It is developing positively. To take any final decisions, we must make many technical and technological checks, and this work is currently underway. As for advancing our joint activity in preparing appropriate documents, this work is also going quite intensively. We are holding consultations not just with German partners, but also with Italian and French partners. This concerns the possible participation of the Italian concern ENI and our French colleagues from Gas de France in future work.
I can also add that yesterday I had quite a lengthy and informative discussion with the EU heads – they were in Moscow, and we talked with Mr. Prodi we devoted a lot of time and attention to issues of energy cooperation and the development of pipeline transport.
We all know, or at least specialists know the energy capabilities and capabilities for delivering energy raw materials to the markets of Western Europe. We know the problems that the Western European economy may face if gas supplies run out in several northern countries in Europe, and in Great Britain. We take this very seriously, and this is one of the problems that we discussed yesterday – the development of transport, above all pipeline transport. Russia has quite major plans here. You know about the plans for building a northern gas pipeline, and we are prepare to develop a gas pipeline that goes through the territory of Poland.
But we have already begun to develop the gas pipeline network together with our Ukrainian colleagues, a network which goes through the territory of Ukraine and then through Eastern European countries. We are currently examining the possibility of constructing additional pipelines through Ukrainian territory, and this is major, large-scale work, which of course positions Ukraine as one of the leading players on the European energy market.
Question: What will be the next stage of work on the Single economic space, and when will the countries involved feel the first results of this work?
Vladimir Putin: We have now prepared a conception of an agreement on a Single economic pace. Now we must develop another serious document on this conceptual basis, something like an economic charter of cooperation, which regulates the order of our joint work in the area of transport, tariffs, communications, transport of goods: everything should be put down in writing, something like an economic constitution or a set of individual agreements on these issues, which are key issues for the development of our economies, to create the necessary conditions which would make it possible to make the economies of the two countries more competitive on international goods and services markets.
Of course, we will do all this with the aim of not creating problems for our positive and constructive cooperation with the European Union, but on the contrary to create conditions which would not allow us to interfere with joint work with the EU on solving tasks in the area of the economy and the social sphere.
Question: For some time, we have seen an intensive dialogue between the two Presidents. I would like to know how you assess the role of the parliaments of the two countries in the development of Russian-Ukrainian relations.
Vladimir Putin: In a democratic society, it is impossible to count on solving large-scale problems involving the development of nations without wide social support. We know that in parliament, almost all groups of the population, social parties and movements are represented.
It is very pleasing for me to note that these decisions have been made. We consider it quite normal that they were passed in the course of serious discussions. Furthermore, this, in the end, shows the nature of political forces and the priorities of the population of the country itself.
If such confident work in the parliaments of Russia and Ukraine took place with the clear advantage for these who were supporters of relations between the two countries, this shows that in this decision the will of the peoples of Ukraine and the Russian Federation was expressed.
Question: The international community is currently advocating a strengthening of the UN’s role in Iraq. I would like to know your opinion – to what extent can this stabilize the situation in this country?
Vladimir Putin: We would like for decisions to be formulated on the Iraq problem which above all suit the Iraqi people. The international coalition which controls the situation in Iraq now came there with one goal. That is, there were many goals, but there was one main goal: to bring democracy to the country of Iraq.
This means to give the Iraqi people the chance to determine their destiny themselves, and there can be no other interpretations. But of course, to reach this point, a certain stage must be passed. And it is our firm belief that the best tool to achieve this is by using the capabilities of the United Nations and its authority. Therefore, the more the UN is involved in this process, the better.