Question: My colleagues and I didn’t manage to hear about the summit’s results. Could you say a bit about the results now?
President Vladimir Putin: The summit was productive and very businesslike. It would have been hard to get any information about what went on, at the beginning, in any case, because all the work was taking place in narrow format and behind closed doors. We discussed bilateral relations and also examined multilateral cooperation.
We agreed that the organisation is needed but that its potential has not yet been fully realised. There is a need for this organisation and it has good development prospects.
At the same time, however, significant changes have taken place over recent years in the post-Soviet area and the organisation must adapt to today’s conditions.
We gave a positive assessment of the proposals presented by the working group on reforming the organisation, or rather, as some prefer to call it, on improving the organisation and the way it functions. The name isn’t important; what is important is that we all agree that we need this organisation and that it can function more effectively.
We agreed that this group would continue its work and present concrete proposals by the summer of next year.
Question: You had a number of bilateral meetings. Could you say something about your meetings with President of Moldova Vladimir Voronin and President of Kyrgyzstan Kurmanbek Bakiev, and did you get the chance to speak at all with President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili?
Vladimir Putin: I had the chance to talk with practically all of my colleagues. I don’t think there was anyone with whom I did not manage to speak with for a while about bilateral relations and regional issues. I spoke with the presidents of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, practically with everyone, and I did also speak with President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili.
I had a more detailed and substantial meeting with President of Moldova Vladimir Voronin, and the press was present at our meeting. We summed up the results of the work carried out by experts over the last few months. This work involved above all coordinating our positions in the agricultural produce sector. Given the amount of work that has been done at expert level, we agreed to allow imports of Moldovan produce, including meat and wine, to the Russian market. Our position is that our specialists will continue working together with their Moldovan colleagues to ensure quality control at Moldovan enterprises.
Regarding wine imports from Moldova, we have agreed to use the one-window principle, that is, wine imports will come through a single company and warehouse in order to guarantee quality and protect Russian consumers from poor quality products. Our Moldovan colleagues have agreed to this system.
I would like to note the immense amount of work carried out by Moldova’s specialists. The ministers and heads of the relevant agencies in our country confirmed this to me when I was preparing for the visit here. Vladimir Voronin and I have agreed that we will resume consultations on political issues, including on reaching a settlement to the situation in the region.
Regarding the energy sector, I think that our specialists in Moscow will find acceptable solutions in this area very soon. Our energy relations will be built on market principles, but within a framework and limits acceptable to both sides.
Question: Three of our colleagues are not present here and were not able to cover this summit. Could you please comment on this situation?
Vladimir Putin: We are here on Belarusian soil. We are guests here. I have already given you all the information I could and I have no further comment.
Question: Did you discuss the case of these journalists with the Belarusian President? Also, during your meeting with Mr Lukashenko, did you manage to reach any agreements on gas, on Beltransgaz?
Vladimir Putin: We did not discuss the case of these journalists in detail. The President said that he thinks this was purely a technical misunderstanding. I think that this issue can be sorted out through the routine procedures.
Regarding the substance of our talks, yes, we spoke a lot about the problems in our bilateral relations. This concerns the energy sector and some other areas of cooperation, including agriculture. Overall, we have an understanding on how to settle these matters and I hope that we will see final decisions very soon, especially in the energy sector. The independent valuers have already completed their valuation work at Beltransgaz and there is not just an understanding at expert level but already an agreement on the means for reaching a final decision. This will be a market-based decision, and we will introduce market-based relations in our dealings with all of our partners, without exception. We in Russia are gradually transitioning to market relations given the need to correct the energy balance within the Russian economy. We will make these changes gradually in order not to hurt household consumers and market participants. Regarding our external partners, including in Belarus, we will capitalise part of the price into the value of Beltransgaz. Gazprom and Beltransgaz will form a joint venture on a fifty/fifty basis, but the parameters for these agreements must be decided at expert and corporate level. I hope that this will be done very soon.
Question: What will be the price put on Beltransgaz?
Vladimir Putin: We will reach a prior agreement that whatever the price turns out to be, both sides, Russia and Belarus, will agree.