President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon. You will be working at a very important position in Iraq, and I don’t think there is any need to talk at great length about how important this is for us now. First, of course, because today this is one of the major trouble spots in the world. Our policies are directed towards restoration in Iraq, to improving the situation there and normalising it in all relations and in all senses.
Furthermore, we have very long-standing relations with Iraq. Relations with the country developed before Saddam Hussein came to power, and they developed well. We intend to further build relations with Iraq in the most positive way. We have a good experience of cooperation with this country. And we do not just have good experience, most importantly we have very good relations with the people of Iraq. This is the base on which it is possible to continue to build intergovernmental ties.
We have many mutual interests: energy, and not just oil and gas, but also electrical energy; and the humanitarian sphere. We have always given Iraq appreciable, significant, serious aid in training personnel. And we intend to continue this work. So, naturally, one of your tasks there will be not just to restore or support intergovernmental relations at the level needed today, but to create conditions for Russian business to return to Iraq.
Vladimir Chamov: Of course, we have very long-standing relations with Iraq. Last year we marked the 60th anniversary of official diplomatic relations between our countries. But in fact they are much deeper and long-standing, you could safely say that they go back centuries. In Iraq, for example, there is a theory that Islam in our country came from there; it was ‘brought in’ to the Volga region through the North Caucasus.
Naturally, any country changes. Iraq has been changing very dynamically recently. Even the regimes change. But the basis that you mentioned – the basis of friendship and genuine respect – always existed between our two peoples. Iraqis are well aware of the contribution that Russian specialists made in the past. In many ways, the energy industry there was practically created through our efforts. A great deal was also done in the sphere of education. We trained thousands of specialists. Many people there speak Russian, and exhibit interest in Russian literature and the situation in Russia; this is a genuine interest. Last year, there was one important event:by your instructions, we were able to deliver books to wartime Iraq, 3,000 Russian books.
Mr Putin: For the university.
Mr Chamov: Yes, for the Baghdad University. They were mainly classic literature. I saw these books, and the selection was very good, very useful.
So we support these ties. Naturally, we will continue to support them in future.
Another area which is very important is culture. There are many things that link us in this area, and there is something to work on. Especially since there has been a war on the territory of Iraq twice in the last 15 years. And this is a country where immense cultural and archaeological treasures are concentrated.