President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you very much, [President of Uzbekistan] Islam Abduganievich [Karimov].
Dear colleagues, the detailed analysis the President of Uzbekistan gave has freed me, I think, from going back over all the various nuances of our relations, all the more so as they are so diverse and cover such a broad range of areas. But there are some key aspects I would like to say a few words about in order to make several affirmations.
First of all, the kind of high level of understanding and cooperation that Russia and Uzbekistan have are more commonly qualified as strategic partnership. I see this not as an abstract formula but as a very concrete reflection of our perceptions and expectations of each other, and also as a term that describes the level of confidence we have in each other.
Yesterday, at dinner with Islam Abduganievich, we discussed foreign policy in the world today and the impact it has on domestic affairs, and we came to what I think was the shared conclusion that policy is often shaped by one factor at the expense of another. I am thinking here of the two factors that are interests and confidence. It is my firm conviction that a rational foreign policy and a rational, correct and just domestic policy are possible only if both factors are present at once. I think that this applies fully to the relations that bind Uzbekistan and the Russian Federation today. These relations are built on trust, while at the same time taking into account the national interests that our respective countries and their leaders naturally pursue.
We have many common undertakings and share many common concerns. Today, and yesterday too, we discussed international affairs, as Islam Abduganievich said, and in particular the situation in Afghanistan. To give the full picture, we discussed the situation in Pakistan too, because it is not possible to examine the establishment and development of a modern political system in Afghanistan in isolation from the context of normalising relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan in their border regions, setting up the appropriate international mechanisms and so on.
We spoke about the need to ensure that these issues are resolved on a collective basis. I think in this respect that various formats can be used for discussing the situation in Afghanistan, in particular those that Islam Abduganievich mentioned. Other recent decisions and formats can be used too, such as a conference under the aegis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
We also discussed the situation in Central Asia in general. This is a key region, a region in which diverse processes are taking place and in which the Russian Federation has crucially important work to do to coordinate our positions with our colleagues and help to find common solutions to the most complex problems. I think that our exchange of views on international issues was very productive and interesting.
Looking at our bilateral relations, they are rich in substance. To start with our economic relations, we have made headway of late in boosting trade between our countries, and it is a lot higher now than it has been at any time over these last years, over the 15 years since our countries gained their independence at least. But both Islam Abduganievich and I agree that this increase is not the limit and that there is still room for growth. We can certainly enrich our trade relations with the new projects in the different areas that were mentioned just now. Particularly important are the energy projects, and I think no one would disagree with this. Our energy cooperation covers a diverse range of areas: relations between our leading companies in gas sales, planning and laying new gas pipelines, and cooperation between our regions, for which we also have a set of the relevant international decisions.
I fully agree with the President of Uzbekistan that we have taken a major step towards giving our energy cooperation a modern foundation by making the transition to market prices. Although this has raised questions in a number of countries, in our relations we intend to keep to this position over the years to come. We have established cooperation based on a set price formula. It is our position that price parameters can change, but these changes are the result of fluctuations on the world market. Whether others like it or not, we will conduct our trade on market conditions.
Regarding the recent conflict over the price of gas supplies to Ukraine, the price that was set had its basis in our common agreements, including our agreements with our Central Asian partners and Uzbekistan too. In this context, there is no cause for grievance or for subsequent revision of agreements. This is a world trend into which we have finally integrated ourselves too. This is in Uzbekistan’s interest, in the Russian Federation’s interest, and it should be in the interest of other countries too, because ultimately, it is prices for energy resources, including gas, that determine economic competitiveness. Those who wish to get by thanks to low prices are undermining their own efforts to build economic prosperity. They place their hopes on preferential prices, but in real life nothing lasts forever.
We are ready for cooperation in other areas in the energy sector too, of course. We hope that work will intensify on our existing projects. I think the energy sector is of vital importance for our cooperation.
At the same time, I have to agree with Islam Abduganievich that our investment cooperation really does need to be diversified. Two big countries such as Russia and Uzbekistan cannot limit their cooperation to the energy sector and information communications alone. There are other very promising sectors in which we can develop long-term cooperation. For this to go ahead, we need to resolve a number of issues, including simply stepping up work on these investment projects, resolving some infrastructure problems, building up mutual incentives, and ensuring protection of investment.
I think the issue of repatriating profits is especially relevant right now. It is one of the issues that always preoccupy investors. There are more than 700 companies in Uzbekistan in which Russian capital has a share. This is a good figure but we would like the number of such companies to increase, and we want to see them all become livelier, more active. Of course, we also hope to see Uzbekistan invest in the Russian economy.
We need a full-fledged legal and contractual base if we want our investment cooperation to develop. We are already moving in this direction. We will sign special agreements on diplomatic property today. This is an issue we have been working on for some time, and it is good to see that the work has now been completed. We hope that our progress will be faster and more intensive than was the case previously.
We updated each other fully on various specific areas of our cooperation. I think this was very useful on the personal level and in terms of clarifying our positions. I think that now we will also update each other on cooperation in the aviation sector and make the final decisions.
Of course, our countries need to pay attention not just to economic relations but also to humanitarian cooperation. We think this is particularly important because these areas – things such as support for our national languages and cultural identity — are the kinds of ties that can bind us together over the truly long term. We hope to sign soon a five-year programme for humanitarian cooperation.
There are also more strategic plans we can discuss. We could discuss the idea of holding [cultural exchange] years if this is of interest to our colleagues. We already have experience organising these kinds of events with other countries. I think we could look at holding such events as part of our bilateral relations. This then is our agenda.
I would like to thank Islam Abduganievich for the invitation to make this state visit to Uzbekistan. I think this visit has been a great success so far in that it has given us the opportunity to discuss such a broad range of issues. The President of Uzbekistan is absolutely right in saying that we have accomplished all of this in a very short time.
I am very glad that the first stop on my visit and first location for our talks was Samarkand, a very ancient city that is always a pleasure to visit. Perhaps the very atmosphere there is conducive to a frank exchange of views on all the main issues on the international agenda and in our bilateral relations.
Today, we are continuing our talks in the capital. I hope that the talks in expanded format will also produce results.
Thank you very much for the invitation. We are ready to start work.