President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome to Moscow once again our esteemed and always welcome guest, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt Hosni Mubarak. Not so much time has passed since we last met less than 18 months ago, but the need to meet face-to-face once more was clear. I am sure that today’s talks will give new impetus to the multifaceted cooperation between Russia and Egypt. Mr Hosni Mubarak and I exchanged views on all the different aspects of our bilateral relations in the open and trusting spirit that is usual for our contacts.
Our chosen policy of developing strategic dialogue and partnership has already brought tangible results in trade and economic relations. Ladies and gentlemen, I want to bring to your attention the fact that our trade with Egypt has increased five-fold over the last four years and now comes to more than $2 billion. We noted just now that if we take into account all of the different areas in which we cooperate this figure would in fact be twice as high. The proposed idea of establishing a specialised Russian industrial zone in Egypt aims at helping us to achieve our goal of intensifying our bilateral economic ties. We also have high hopes for the work of the joint commission on trade, economic and science and technology cooperation, which held its sixth meeting a week ago in Cairo.
We paid considerable attention during our talks to improving our traditional trade and economic ties and developing promising new areas for cooperation, including in the high-technology sectors. Today, we signed an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. This agreement opens up new horizons for our bilateral cooperation.
Our industrial cooperation has been a success. A joint operation to assemble Lada cars in Egypt has been working for several years now with good results. Incidentally, exports to Egypt of Russian vehicles and equipment have increased four-fold over the last four years. A number of leading Russian companies such as LUKOIL and Novotek are carrying out successful mineral exploration and production programmes.
Of course, we could not ignore the important part of our cooperation that is tourism. We set a new record in 2007 when 1.5 million Russians visited Egypt. Russia is now the leader in numbers of tourists visiting Egypt. There are problems, of course, but we can work to resolve them. Unfortunately, road safety is not always at the level it should be either in Russia or in Egypt, and this is an issue we are aware of. This creates certain problems, but we here in Russia are also trying to address this issue, and not always successfully, I have to say. We do hope, though, that our tourists in Egypt will be able to count on comfortable and safe conditions.
During our talks we discussed in detail the next steps in the work between our countries on issues regarding the Middle East. This discussion was all the more relevant as Russia’s foreign minister, who has just returned from the region, also took part. The exchange of views confirmed that we share many common positions regarding efforts to reinvigorate the Arab-Israeli peace process in all different areas. We think that the role Russia and Egypt can play as mediators is particularly important at this time of renewed tension between Palestine and Israel.
Our views also coincide on the need to achieve consensus between the Palestinians in their national interest. We share the view of our Egyptian friends that without this consensus it will be difficult to create a viable democratic and independent Palestinian state that would be a factor for the stability and security of all the countries in the Middle East, including Israel, of course.
We also discussed a number of other regional issues, including the situation in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and the Iranian nuclear issue. Our similar views on these regional problems form a good basis for close political and diplomatic cooperation, policy coordination and practical steps.
Summing up the results of today’s meeting, I can state confidently that our countries have good prospects for continuing to develop our foreign policy cooperation and our business partnership.
Thank you for your attention.
President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak: I would like to thank my good friend President Putin for the warm reception and the good meeting. I am pleased that we were able to witness today the signature of the important nuclear energy agreement between Russia and Egypt. I said last October that Egypt intends to develop its nuclear programme in order to produce electricity. This is a strategic programme that aims to cover our growing demand for electricity, and we plan to use a wide range of different energy sources. In this connection, I want to stress that Egypt, in its cooperation with our international partners and with the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] and in accordance with international law and with its obligations, reflects our common desire to develop friendly relations and cooperation between the Russian Federation and Egypt.
I am sure that today’s meeting with President Putin and with President-elect Medvedev show that our relations are solid and will continue to grow. And I am sure that the future will see the ties between our two countries flourish and make even greater progress.
Mr Putin and I held important talks on regional and international issues of mutual interest. We saw that we share common positions on the current situation in the Middle East and the events taking place in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and the Persian Gulf area. We agreed on the need to prevent the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories from escalating, on the need to lift the blockade of the Gaza strip as soon as possible and resume negotiations between the Palestinian Administration and Israel on a peace treaty. We must end the Palestinian people’s suffering and do all we can to help them achieve their desire of creating an independent state.
We also agreed on the need for serious and urgent measures to implement the agreements reached at the talks in Annapolis in order to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion.
We had a good discussion on the current state of our bilateral relations and our talks today confirmed that both countries want to develop and strengthen these relations, especially in the economy, trade, investment, tourism and many other sectors.
I can now leave Moscow with even greater confidence in the future of our bilateral relations and in our ability to work together in the interests of peace and stability in the Middle East and throughout the world. I would like to once more speak my praise of President Putin and give him my very best wishes. I am also pleased to have had this opportunity to meet with President-elect Medvedev and I wish him success in his work. If he wishes, we are ready to welcome him to Egypt.
Thank you very much.
Question: My question is for both leaders. You just said that you discussed the situation in the Middle East. Could you give a more detailed assessment of the situation in the region?
Vladimir Putin: I think it is quite difficult to give a detailed assessment right now given that the situation remains very complex. The most important thing, in our view, is to stop the violence today, to stop both sides from firing at each other. We hope very much that the upcoming summit of the Arab League will examine these issues in detail and that the summit itself will help to consolidate unity among the Arab countries. The issue of achieving unity among the Palestinian people themselves is of paramount importance in this respect.
We call on all the parties in this conflict to look to the future and not act out of short-term political considerations. Russia, for its part, will do everything it can to help achieve a settlement to this conflict. We have considerably strengthened our relations with Israel over these last years and we have a good tradition of friendship, trust and cooperation in our relations with the Arab countries. This is a positive base that we will use to do what we can to help bring about a settlement in the Middle East.
Hosni Mubarak: I think that Mr Putin has just stated everything very clearly and has given the full picture of just how complex the current situation is. We need to make an effort to stop the violence and end the firing, including the rocket attacks. We need to do everything we can to defuse the tension.
Question: I am from Egyptian television and I want to ask both Presidents to give specific details about the Moscow conference. To what extent do you think that this conference can help achieve progress and what is the likelihood of obtaining concessions from Israel, which, with the backing of the United States, does not want to make concessions?
Mr Putin, you said that if Mr Medvedev wins the election, possible changes could be made that would give him greater powers.
Could you also tell us please about the plans to establish a Russian industrial zone in Egypt?
Hosni Mubarak: I did not want to talk about Annapolis but about the Moscow conference. I think that this conference will help us to reach a common position on the issue and to work together with the relevant parties to make progress.
Vladimir Putin: What I want to say might sound unusual, but we hope that if this conference does take place the only Moscow-related thing about it will be the name, and that no one side will have the lead in organising and holding this event. We have no intention of trying to take the lead and impose anything. We want this to be a joint event. We want everyone who takes part to have an equal interest in achieving positive results at the meeting in Moscow if it goes ahead.
We spoke a lot with the President today about this idea and we came to the conclusion that, first, there is a need for such meetings today, and second, these meetings must be well organised. If such a meeting does take place, it should be independent in character.
We are currently in talks with all the participants in this process: with our American partners, the Israelis, and representatives of the Arab countries. As soon as we see that there is a real possibility of reaching agreements that could be gradually advanced, we will be able to enter the final stage of preparations. We think it expedient to begin this work and the President and I agreed on this today.
As for the second part of your question, I did not really understand exactly what powers you are referring to. I would be grateful if you could repeat your question.
Question: After the ruling party’s convincing victory in the parliamentary elections, some people said that the President’s powers could be expanded in the future and that powers could be redefined in such a way as to enable Mr Putin, when he becomes prime minister, to play a more active part.
I also asked about the Russian industrial zone in Egypt.
Vladimir Putin: You are referring to the powers of the Russian prime minister? I have already said on many occasions that we have no need to change anything in this respect. The prime minister has sufficient powers to be able to effectively perform the duties the Constitution places on him. Moreover, the prime minister can and should make use of the support of the parliamentary majority in the State Duma. This is a robust construction that ensures effective government and fulfils the hopes of the Russian people who came to the polling stations and voted for precisely a continuation of the policies we have been following over these last eight years.
As for the industrial zone, this is a relevant issue and it is something I discussed with the President. He received the heads of the intergovernmental commission, which is working on this issue, recently in Cairo. We think that the implementation of such ambitious programmes can make a real contribution to expanding our cooperation and above all to diversifying our economic ties by developing activities in the high-technology and machine-building sectors. The final outlines of this project have not been settled yet, but I think this is a promising direction for our work together.