President of Tajikistan Emomali Rakhmonov: Dear representatives of the media, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and I have just held constructive and fruitful talks covering all the key areas of our cooperation. We discussed regional and international issues of mutual interest. Our talks took place in a business-like and trusting atmosphere that characterises well our relations. I would like to thank Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] personally for his farsighted and original approach to settling the complex issues that have hindered our cooperation. This approach was evident when we met in Sochi, and it was present at our meetings today.
Concerning the outcome of our meetings, I can announce that we have taken a major step towards intensifying the cooperation between our two countries. We have reached some very important agreements that will lead to a qualitatively new situation that will do much to optimise the relations between Russia and Tajikistan.
Today we laid down the legal framework for establishing a Russian military base in Tajikistan and for settling Tajikistan’s debt to Russia. I consider these to be major achievements. In general, today’s meeting is of historic significance for Tajikistan. We are now free from the pressure of unresolved problems and we can now work together in business-like fashion on concrete projects, the foundations of which we laid today.
In this respect, I first of all would like to inform you that we have reached agreement on Russia participating in various ways in carrying out energy projects in Tajikistan. Russia will make a considerable contribution in this area. Realising Tajikistan’s abundant hydroelectric generating potential of 528 billion kilowatt hours offers mutual benefits not only to our two countries but is also of great importance for the region overall. I think that concrete, significant examples such as these will show our people just what benefits we stand to gain from our partnership relations. I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to the Russian business community to work more actively in our market. All the necessary conditions and opportunities for this exist today.
We also discussed other regional and international issues as part of our ongoing political contacts, including the fight against international terrorism and drug trafficking, our military-political contacts, and the situation in Afghanistan and other hot spots. We reaffirmed our support for the peace process in Afghanistan. We also discussed ways to increase the effectiveness of the CIS, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, the Eurasian Economic Community, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Central Asian Cooperation Organisation and other organisations functioning in the post-Soviet area. We agreed to continue the coordination of our work in this direction.
In conclusion, I would like to say how very satisfied I am with the talks that have taken place. I am sure that this first official visit by the head of state of friendly Russia will open a new page in the rich history of the relations between our two countries.
Now it gives me great pleasure to give the floor to Vladimir Vladimirovich, and then we will answer your questions.
President Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much. Today is a special day, and not just because an official visit by the President of Russia is taking place in Tajikistan, but because we have spent five years working to reach the results we have achieved today. Today, we are simply summing up the results of this five years of work. You will have noted that we signed a whole number of documents today, and these are not just pieces of paper, they are documents marking the completion of an entire stage of work and exemplifying our real prospects for long-term cooperation.
It is enough to say that, within the framework of the documents signed today, Russia – both its state structures and private companies – will invest some $2 billion in the Tajik economy over the next five years. I do not think that anyone has invested such sums in Tajikistan or has even announced plans to make such investment over the last 12–13 years. There are many reasons for this decision, above all, of course, this is linked to the stability that is now emerging in Tajikistan, and to the reliability of Tajikistan’s political authorities and the trust that has built up between Russia and Tajikistan.
Also of importance are our agreements on giving a legal basis to the Russian military base in Tajikistan. The President of Tajikistan and I agree that ensuring the stable functioning of this base and strengthening it (and we do plan to reinforce our military presence in Tajikistan) will act not only as a guarantee for Russian investment but will serve to guarantee stability in the region overall.
I will not list all the documents that we signed, for you are already aware of them. I would like only to stress once more just how much importance we place on them. We consider this a significant stage in the development of our bilateral ties and we are sure that we will very soon be able to strengthen our cooperation in all different areas.
Tomorrow we will have the pleasant opportunity of visiting our military base and opening it officially. But I would like to repeat that what is most important for us is the approach shown by the Tajik leadership to military-political cooperation with Russia and their willingness to provide every guarantee for Russian investment in the republic’s economy.
I would also like to inform you that we have agreed that, as from next year, Russia will begin providing free training for servicemen from the Tajik armed forces. We have allocated the necessary funds for this in the state budget. We have also found a solution to the debt problem that is acceptable both for Tajikistan and for the Russian Federation. Moreover, we have turned the problem of settling debt commitments into a basis for the further development of our relations. This has been made possible by the high level of trust that has been established over recent years between Tajikistan and Russia.
I hope that the agreement on labour migration will also spare people additional complications in Russia and will at the same time enable us all to prevent migration from being used by criminal groups for their own purposes. Our military and law enforcement agencies also plan to expand their cooperation, and this will definitely be another major component of our work together.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Question from Mir International Television: My question is for Russian President. Vladimir Vladimirovich, how does Russia plan to develop its economic policy with regard to Tajikistan? Aside from completing construction of the Sangtuda hydroelectric power station, are there any other major projects? And why has Russia chosen precisely this moment to sign an agreement on Sangtuda? Why not have done so earlier?
Vladimir Putin: You were present at the signing of a corresponding agreement on the Ragun hydroelectric power station, and this is a case of private Russian investment being made. We, of course, cannot but support our companies in these projects. We would like for large-scale projects such as these to take place in many different formats. We would like for all the participants, all the potential participants – the interested countries, commercial structures, companies – to take part in these processes. We understand just how close are the links between Tajikistan’s energy industry and water supply in the region as a whole. This is a question of vital interests not just for Tajikistan but also for other countries and we would like to see this process take place on the basis of mutually acceptable decisions that will foster cooperation and foster economic development in the region as a whole. That is the first consideration.
Second, we do have other plans aside from the major energy projects. Trade is growing, for example, and trade turnover between our two countries is increasing at a rate of 38 percent per year. That is a good result. We hope that we will be able to continue developing our relations overall at just such a pace.
As for why we chose this moment and not an earlier time, I said just before that we spent five years working together to reach these agreements. You will realise, no doubt, just looking at the figures involved in major projects, that thorough preparation is required first before agreeing to such a step. We spent all this time on just such thorough preparation. What’s more, security issues and guarantees also play a very important part in reaching such agreements. The fact that today, along with the economic agreements, we have signed an agreement on having a Russian military base functioning in Tajikistan on an international-legal basis is precisely an element of this security that we need. So, we were reaching decisions on a whole complex of issues at once, and the preparation did take a long time, but I am very pleased that we have finally reached the decisions we have.
Emomali Rakhmonov: I would just like to add that the agreement on Sangtuda was signed only today. For your information, an agreement was signed on construction of the Ragun hydroelectric power station that will be financed by the major Russian company RusAl, which will provide $560 million. An aluminium smelter with capacity to produce 200,000 tons will be built over a period of seven years in the south of Tajikistan, in Khadlot Oblast.
Vladimir Putin: That will also involve $200 million, won’t it?
Emomali Rakhmonov: It will involve $600 million, and the expansion of construction, that is, equipping and modernising two sections of the aluminium plant and increasing its output by 100,000 tons will involve investment of $160 million. According to the agreements that we signed today, almost $2 billion will be invested in Tajikistan’s economy over the next 7 years. RusAl will also provide training for more than 50,000 Tajik specialists and more than 10,000 new jobs will be created over five years. Is that not a lot? This is not just in the energy sector – there are also the labour migration and other agreements that we signed today.
There are more than just security benefits for Tajikistan in having the Russian military base here. For a start, they will use our cheap market to ensure their operations here, and that represents a large volume. We saw how many problems there were in Germany when the Americans began to withdraw their troops there, how many jobs were lost. We, on the contrary, are creating new jobs, and I think this is very important for us. But the main thing is to ensure our security, security not just for Tajikistan but for the region as a whole and for Europe, too. With Tajikistan acting as an effective buffer zone against the spread of extremism, terrorism and drug trafficking, we save not only ourselves — Tajikistan and Russia. Over recent years our forces and Russian border guards have seized drugs worth more than $1 billion on the European black market and have saved 22 million people from drug addiction.
Question from Mayak radio station: My question is for both Presidents. You reached agreements on developing bilateral relations in Sochi at the beginning of June. Are you satisfied with the way these agreements are being implemented? Have they all been implemented?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, these documents have all been implemented completely and I am satisfied.
Emomali Rakhmonov: I said at the very beginning that today’s visit is of historic significance to Tajikistan. We continued holding meetings on the problems that we have had over the last twelve years and we drew up everything legally after meeting in Sochi. Now we have completed the whole process. We no longer have any problems, no questions of any kind, and now we must carry out all our agreements and move forward. We must increase our trade. We have much potential to make use of here.
Vladimir Putin: I must say that on many issues we made some concessions to accommodate Tajikistan’s position, but we arrived at a programme for moving forward that we both find acceptable. Regarding the debt payment schedule, for example, we have agreements on converting this debt into investment in the Tajik economy in facilities that are of interest to us. We have packaged this together with military cooperation, with the bases and the Nurek facility. In other words, we have reached a comprehensive settlement. I can say without any exaggeration that I cannot recall any other such example of this kind of comprehensive approach to dealing with bilateral issues and arriving at long-term solutions with other CIS countries in recent years.
Emomali Rakhmonov: Today, Tajikistan’s debt is being cut by $330 million. This will also give us opportunities to attract additional investment to our economy. The agreement signed with the Russian Federation on the Sangtuda hydroelectric power station will bring in more than $250 million in investment over four years. The Russian side involved, RAO Unified Energy Systems, has committed itself to bringing the power station on line within four years. Of this $250 million, $50 million is our remaining debt, and we are grateful for this. As I already said, it is precisely in this that political will on the part of the Russian President was needed. And a number of serious compromises were reached with regard to Tajikistan.
Vladimir Putin: I would like to emphasise that despite the political will the President of Tajikistan refers to, much time was nonetheless required to work through all these issues.
Our ministries worked out all the details very thoroughly at expert level. The Economy Ministry and the Finance Ministry were both involved, and you know that they are very strict when it comes to observing certain rules for relations in finance and lending. Everything has been calculated very carefully and these decisions are justified and very thoroughly prepared and worked through.