President Vladimir Putin: Dear colleagues, allow me to wish you a warm welcome to Moscow. It makes me very happy that the council [on cooperation on security matters] set up on the French President’s initiative is working actively. I spoke with the President on the telephone just two days ago and we discussed in some detail our bilateral relations and our work together on the international stage.
I know that over the course of today’s work and during day-to-day activities many questions arise that are no doubt more effectively resolved together.
So once again, welcome. It gives me great pleasure to see you and have the chance to talk to you today, to hear your views on the results of today’s meetings and discuss our future cooperation.
French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie: Mr President, please allow Mr Michel Barnier and myself to greet you and to say that it is a great honour for us to be here, and for my part, I am very happy to meet with you once again.
Regarding the message sent by our President, I think you have already the chance to see it – I spoke to him about this. As for my meeting with [Russian Defence Minister] Sergei Ivanov, we know each other very well, we work very well together and I think we have established very warm and trusting relations. I am very happy that our work with Mr Ivanov began in the wonderful city of St. Petersburg. I know you are very attached to this city and our meeting there gave us the opportunity to discuss all different aspects of our military cooperation.
We can see that our work is making progress. We held 24 joint operations in 2004. It is very important that our cooperation continue to develop, and this goes for naval cooperation and for cooperation between our air and land forces.
Regarding arms, our advanced level of industry enables us to develop our cooperation and I can name one area in which we could work together – that of unmanned aircraft. We have, therefore, a wide range of possibilities for working together.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much, Madam Minister. I wanted precisely to ask you your opinion on our work together in the aviation sector, and in particular regarding the unmanned aircraft project. We have a number of promising projects, including one to build a heavy helicopter based on a helicopter already being produced here in Russia – the Mi-26, I think. Now we should probably ask your colleague, the Foreign Minister, to say a few words on the outcome of today’s meeting.
French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier: Mr President, I will say a few words, of course, but I first wanted to thank you for sparing us some of your time. I also want to say that the “two plus two” format you proposed for our meeting – I think it was a format proposed both by our President and by yourself – is unique.
I am very happy to see you again. Last time we met I was not yet foreign minister but was still a European Union commissioner and represented Mr Prodi in St. Petersburg at the session of the Baltic Sea Council. I think that today’s meeting has taken place at a very important time for relations between Russia, France and the European Union and we hope that by the time the summit comes, that is, by May, when the European Union-Russia summit is to take place, the question of the four common spaces will be settled.
You yourself mentioned that we have many reasons for working together. I am thinking here of the various conflicts and crises and so on, but also, of course, of the main threat and struggle, that of the fight against terrorism. Furthermore, I have been working a great deal with [Russian Foreign Minister] Sergei Lavrov. I think we have been working in harmony in order to hold what are very delicate and complex negotiations with Iran so as to persuade that country to renounce nuclear proliferation. I also think that the very close relations that exist between Russia and France and between Russia and the European Union will give us the chance to focus also on another conflict, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that I think is at the centre of our attention, and here, of course, the United States also has its part to play. I think we are all concerned about this question and should make every effort within the quartet of Russia, the European Union, the united States and the United Nations. I very much hope that 2005 will become a year of peace. It is our common responsibility to make it so.
I think that aside from this question the issue of Iran will also be on the agenda. I think this is a very important issue that you will have the opportunity to discuss when you meet as a foursome with German Chancellor Schroeder, French President Chirac and Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero.
Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov: We have indeed held very fruitful talks in St. Petersburg yesterday with Michel Barnier and today as a foursome. Regarding military-technical cooperation, I would just like to add one thing, and that is that we have good prospects for cooperation in the area of space research and exploration in the broadest sense of the term.
As for our talks today, we concentrated on discussing prospects for developing our cooperation in the area of the European Union’s and Russia’s external security, a basket of issues that will be examined at the summit in May. I gave our partners a detailed report on the situation in the North Caucasus regarding security and anti-terrorist measures. As well as the political, social and economic measures we are currently taking in the North Caucasus, we also discussed the situation in the hot spots, in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Iranian nuclear problem. Regarding Afghanistan, we also looked at the situation following the attempted terrorist act committed yesterday against one of the Uzbek leaders there.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov: We did indeed hold a very fruitful council session and the bilateral meetings between our countries’ foreign and defence ministers were also very useful. Aside from the subjects my colleagues have already mentioned, we also agreed on specific joint mechanisms for working on such important issues as reform of the United Nations and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the need to work out how we can improve the quality and level of cooperation within the Russia-NATO Council to better achieve the objectives set out by the Rome Declaration. So, we have begun joint, applied, analytical studies and we will inform President Chirac and yourself on our proposals.
Vladimir Putin: Dear colleagues, I would like to note that Russia places great importance on developing relations with France. France is not just a priority partner for us but is a partner with whom we are building very trusting relations and with whom we want to develop these relations both in the economy and in the area of international security. Our views on developments in the world coincide in many respects and in this context I think that the work carried out by our defence and foreign minister and the coordination of efforts to find solutions to these common problems is of great importance.
We can talk about all of this in more detail.