President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov: Respected Dmitry Anatolyevich, respected media representatives!
It is my great pleasure to once again welcome our Russian friends and representatives of the media who are present here today.
This visit by Russian President Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev is his first state visit to Uzbekistan.
He has already had the opportunity to visit Uzbekistan, but in a different role. But today, as I said before, is his first visit to Uzbekistan in the role of President of Russia. It therefore gives me great pleasure to welcome him by saying [speaking in Uzbek], which means, “Welcome to Uzbekistan!”
In Uzbekistan, we view the current visit by the President of Russia as a logical expression and continuation of the relationship that has developed between our countries in terms of strategic partnership and cooperation, and as a good opportunity in the rapidly changing circumstances of modern times to discuss and determine joint resolutions on current issues of a bilateral and international nature that are of interest to both our countries, at a time when life has put forward problems needing a new, more critical understanding of events occurring in the world and in various regions. To be sure, something new is added by problems that have occurred because of the growing scale of the financial and economic crisis, the issues of determining a joint course of action, the issues of increasing and deepening the ties of cooperation between our businesses in overcoming the negative effects of the crisis, and the issues of maintaining the levels we have reached in trade turnover between our countries.
In my opinion, all of these issues are extremely relevant at this time, and when we look for various ways to counteract symptoms of the crisis, the best, and I think, most rational option is to find new trade markets between our countries. Furthermore, today, Russia is a trade market for the entire world. And when we discuss unclaimed opportunities, we must look for such opportunities in trade relations between Uzbekistan and Russia.
Unfortunately, I must admit that there are enormous opportunities that remain practically unused. And even today, while discussing our agenda and during presentations by individual representatives of Russia’s business world, we saw that there are certain issues right at the surface that – if implemented simultaneously, if we align those ties of cooperation properly – will be long-term in nature. From this position – employment, orders, and everything that is tied to gross product – it all lies in this area. Therefore, from this point of view, ties of cooperation take on an importance such that we are simply obligated to deal with them.
The talks and exchanges of opinions, which were preceded by a series of bilateral events on an intergovernmental, interdepartmental level, once again confirmed the commonnality of our positions on nearly all the issues discussed, a strong political will, an interest by both sides in expanding our collaboration, in greater orientation on practical results of agreements, and in developing strategic partnerships and cooperation.
It was our great pleasure to note the stable rates in the growth of trade and economic relations between our countries. Russia constantly holds the position of an important trade partner for Uzbekistan. Based on results for 2008, the turnover between our countries was about four billion dollars, thus remaining at the same level as in 2007, despite significant worldwide drops in prices.
Taking a critical look at the state of affairs in our economic collaboration, both sides highlighted several stereotypes that have come about, and we have come to the common conclusion about the necessity to diversify and strengthen our investment cooperation, as well as ties in industrial cooperation, in order to better use reserves and possibilities that have not yet been implemented, particularly in areas such as machinery manufacturing, instrument making, electrical goods, processing agricultural products, communications, and especially, transport.
Both sides also expressed serious concern regarding escalation in the conflict in Afghanistan, which is compounded by an increase in drug trafficking from that country.
We are very satisfied by the constructive nature of our bilateral interactions and close coordination of our efforts within the UN, SCO, and OSCE, where Uzbekistan and Russia’s positions and approaches in regard to most issues are nearly identical or very similar.
Today, we also expressed genuine opinions regarding the course of integration processes in the former Soviet republics, including within the CIS and CSTO.
The result of our work together was, as you heard today, the signing of documents that should play a role in further strengthening cooperation between Uzbekistan and Russia in the sphere of politics and diplomacy, as well as the cultural-humanitarian sphere. In this regard, I would like to make a separate mention of the very important issues we plan to sign off on in the near future, and our plans to accept an intergovernmental program of cooperation in the area of culture and humanities during 2009–2011, which will reflect the positive experience we have acquired in recent times of reciprocal contact and will undoubtedly serve to bring our countries and our people closer in the future.
In conclusion, I would like to express my certainty that the state visit by Russian President Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev will become a landmark event in strengthening and developing relations between Uzbekistan and Russia. Its results will unambiguously serve our common interests.
Thank you for your attention. It is my pleasure to pass the microphone to Dmitry Anatolyevich.
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Islam Abduganievich, press representatives, colleagues.
The President of Uzbekistan and I have just concluded our talks, and in my view their results reflect the level of those relationships which have developed between our two countries. These relationships are characterised as those of a strategic partnership, and alliance, since in today's world it is vital that we are in synch, that we are in tune with one another, and that we constantly consider the most diverse issues.
Our discussions have touched on a wide range of questions. Most of these have already been mentioned by Islam Abduganievich. I would like to add, that, of course, our international cooperation on the situation in Central Asia, on matters relating to the situation in Afghanistan, and in countries that border Afghanistan, have an exceptional importance. We have talked about these issues on a wide variety of occasions. We have met in multilateral formats and held talks with Islam Abduganievich, and we have then had discussions, as they say – behind the scenes – after various summits.
Both yesterday and today we have discussed the situation surrounding these very difficult problem areas, and have come to the conclusion that there is no unilateral solution, that nothing can be resolved without taking into account the collective opinion of states which have an interest in the resolution of the situation. Just as it is impossible to imagine the creation of some kind of ideal model which could be applied according to which a state could develop on the basis of foreign recommendations.
Any state must develop on the basis of its own laws, and taking into account its own diverse history and culture, which is particular to that state, while of course embracing international, universal values. Where to find this balance is indeed the fundamental problem which faces international organisations, and the whole world, in their discussions of conflicts, and in their discussions of the development of social forces.
We discussed not only international affairs but also of course we talked about our bilateral relationship, our cooperation in trade, the economy, and investment. I would like to lend my full support to what Islam Abduganievich said just now, we have a good relationship, which is productive, of significant scale, and has vast potential. The fact that today this can be rendered in figures at several billion dollars (3–4 billion), is of course good, but the sales volume and extent of trade deals could be significantly greater if, for example, we moved more actively on a series of questions relating to our investment cooperation, if we acted to diversify our investment cooperation, as we have just discussed during our talks in the expanded format.
Today we have spoken about the prospects for the future. I hope that these will also be developed soon. Incidentally, in connection with this, I would like to acknowledge our colleagues and leaders of intergovernmental commissions, and all those who have taken part in the preparation for today's meeting, and in the preparation of those agreements which have just been signed. I think that this has all been excellent quality work, although the body of it is still to come.
I would also like to note that, in spite of the difficult position that the whole world finds itself in at the moment, Russian companies have nonetheless proved ready to invest their money in the Uzbek economy, and are ready to develop investment cooperation in a wide variety of areas. These are well known: energy, tourism, industry, issues linked to the tourism industry, and on all matters where we can reach an agreement.
We also see a great future for the development of humanitarian contacts, the growth of cooperation in the areas of education, science, and culture. We are talking about signing a significant agreement, as Islam Abduganievich just mentioned, and about the implementation of various programmes which are already extant. There are a variety of them: some are sizeable, others are smaller. For example, literary classics of the CIS peoples are published under the framework of the Fund for humanitarian cooperation; this will include books by Uzbek authors. Last year, the Uzbek national epic was published in Russian and this will, I think, better acquaint us with the culture of friendly Uzbekistan, and will help us improve our orientation on the cultural landscape, which is very important.
Our colleagues have only just signed documents, which will aid the coordination of our cooperation in the international arena, and we think that this kind of cooperation is particularly important. I have already spoken about this.
Overall I would like to say that our meeting and negotiations were open, productive, intensive, and literally from the first minutes of my arrival in Uzbekistan, Islam Abduganievich and I started talking about a most diverse selection of matters, both internal and international. Of course it is exceptionally important considering the fact that time is always very pressing on these bilateral visits, in spite of its high status – that of a state visit. That is why, both what we discussed yesterday in Samarkand, and what we are talking about today in the capital, are very important topics for the development of both our states. I think that we succeeded making progress on these points, both in the mutual understanding of the subtleties of our positions, and in talking about those particular projects which really are vital for the development of our countries.
That is why I would like to thank Islam Abduganievich once more for his invitation, for what has turned out to be a most warm, cordial, reception, and I am certain that we will give new impetus to the development of cooperation between our countries.
Question: A question for the President of the Russian Federation, regarding safety and the economy. During your broadened meetings, it was noted that 95 percent of investment flow is directed toward the fuel and energy industry. In your opinion, what mechanisms can be used to ensure current agreements in this area, given today’s complicated situation on the world financial market? It was also highlighted that it is necessary to diversify economic cooperation. What specific spheres and industries could become the basis for boosting this process?
Dmitry Medvedev: This is a good question, one that we addressed today; we also talked about some issues with Islam Abduganievich yesterday. I will just specify that 95 percent is not the fuel and energy industry, but rather, the fuel and energy industry combined with telecommunications. That is to say, it is energy and high-tech, which, in reality, is not bad, but of course, the figure is still very high.
If that percentage were different – for example, 70 or 60 – I would think that would be the optimal proportion. But as it is, these two extremely important and very useful and mutually beneficial areas of cooperation account for a lot.
What is ahead? We have a range of projects ahead of us, which we have already begun to work on. I think that each of them can allow forward movement. Today, Islam Abduganievich and I, along with our Uzbek and Russian colleagues, have devoted a lot of time and attention to, for example, issues related to aircraft construction and subsequent sales. Clearly, now is not the easiest time for taking large orders, but if we do not work now to create a base for the future, then our aircraft construction plants may find themselves in a rather difficult situation.
That is why we must seek new markets and create joint projects. We discussed one such joint project today, in the field of creating new airplanes, the field of aircraft construction.
There are different possible approaches here. During our talks today, we were able to reach a certain compromise which, I believe, can move this project forward. But, of course, we need to seek out areas that will be in demand in the current situation. That is why I see cooperation in production as an exceptionally important direction. I mean all different kinds of cooperation in the field of energy, and cooperation in the field of nuclear industry. I feel that we could also do well in working on issues of cooperation in transport. In this regard, we also have a range of suggestions that could be implemented. And any project in general that could be effective today should, in my opinion, be sought after.
Why is this particularly relevant? Precisely for the reason that today, the economy of the Russian Federation and the economy of Uzbekistan are suffering from a decrease in exports. Demand for our exports has fallen – this includes metallurgy, and certain other types of production. Naturally, we must somehow deal with these problems. So what must we do? We can create new production units, search for new projects, particularly in cases of consumption within the territories of our countries: where we do not need the markets of third countries, where we can credit each other, where we can find some kind of optimal procedure for financial and economic relations which will not require borrowing, for example, and receiving credit, costly credit, in other countries. This is what I perceive as being fairly interesting today.
Islam Karimov: Does anyone else have a question? Please.
Question: I have a question to both presidents. What specific agreements did you reach on the basis of today’s talks in the sphere of energy and developing a gas transmission system?
Islam Karimov: I think that we could spend a very long time listing all the projects that are being carried out today and whose scope we are looking to broaden.
Yesterday, I had a visit from Vagit Alekperov, who heads one of the leading Russian companies in the field of energy and energy resources. We spent several hours talking in detail about these issues, and had thorough discussions about the details of several projects. I am thankful to him for his understanding and the consideration for Uzbekistan’s interests in constructing such projects as a gas refining plant at the Kandym deposits, and others, where we expect to refine over 15 billion cubic meters of gas in the upcoming years. There are also other projects, other gas deposits which contain up to 7 percent ethane, and you understand that ethane can be used to get various refined products which are in great demand on the world market today.
These issues, which we have always discussed, are broad in nature. If we are to discuss sums or large investments that go hand in hand with this project, then we can talk for a very long time. But what is most important is that we have found mutual understanding and that these projects are very promising in nature. I could talk for a long while about how much time we spent in discussions with Gazprom, but in the end, we have a civilized system for determining prices which is accepted all throughout the world – not only for gas deliveries, but for other components as well.
I think that the issues on which we have reached agreement and which we are consolidating in our relations with Gazprom also have major importance, if we keep in mind that this year Uzbekistan had the opportunity to deliver greater quantities to Gazprom than it was able to accept. This is the result of certain particularities of 2008, but also, first and foremost, the world financial crisis, a decrease in demand for gas, and other factors. Nevertheless, we are very happy to have clearly defined prospects with Gazprom, and now, probably, there will no longer be any kind of subjective approaches.
Dmitry Anatolyevich and I did not only talk about these projects, but about long-range projects as well; first and foremost, issues related to communications projects. These projects have a lot of promise in Uzbekistan in regards to resolving high-tech issues, so that Uzbekistan receives the same technologies that Russia uses today: technologies that are not merely used, but that also receive a great deal of investments, which may result in some kind of explosive result in the near future. It is difficult for us to talk about this, but I believe that nanotechnologies, which Russia works on today, are something that could provide serious results, and Uzbekistan is interested in participating in these projects.
Dmitry Anatolyevich talked about uranium. Uzbekistan is ready to supply it to Russia and resolve issues in satisfying Russia’s demand for uranium concentrates. But today, these issues are under the shadow of the crisis, a drop in uranium prices, and other factors.
I could list all these questions at length, but I would like to say that issues regarding the processing of agricultural products, in which Uzbekistan is rich and which Russia has a demand for, also have great meaning. In terms of monetary value, they do not provide that much, but they satisfy the demands of the Russian population, and importantly, they help to limit or prevent the growth in prices for food products. I think that Uzbekistan can be very useful to Russia in that respect.
I will not continue listing these issues, but I would nonetheless like to say what I said in the very beginning: as soon as we begin dealing with individual projects, it turns out that they provide an enormous sphere of activity as soon as we delve into them more deeply and begin to resolve them practically.
I talked about the significance of Dmitry Anatolyevich’s state visit. First of all, I think that all the issues which we discussed will be continued. For this purpose, the delegations include very competent, very important individuals and business leaders. And I hope that today’s visit will truly provide results, and that we can openly call it a successful visit.
Dmitry Medvedev: I will just say a few words. I agree with what Islam Abduganievich has said. Without a doubt, all these trends are in the picture.
In talking about cooperation in energy, I will just note two factors. In order to have full-fledged cooperation, it is necessary for this cooperation to be relaxed, for it to create a sense of comfort, effectiveness, and mutual benefit. And it is already very good that, for example, in the gas sector, in our gas relations, we have truly reached new levels of cooperation and we are now within the bounds of modern, mutually beneficial agreements, which are based on market prices. This means that in other areas, we can move forward, knowing that we have already entered this phase. I spoke about this broadly during the opening of our talks.
Companies have been named which are interested in developing cooperation in energy. I don’t really have anything to add to that. Clearly, this cooperation can progress both in the direction of acquiring various forms of energy sources and obtaining gas, and in the direction of constructing additional pipeline capacity and transport capacity. I feel that this is also very important if we count on these projects as being oriented toward the future, if we count on binding ourselves to providing energy resources to our partners, other countries. That is why we must be watchful to ensure that the gas transport system is in proper form. And in this regard, I feel, we could also think about developing these kinds of projects.
Overall, I feel that we have a very good chance that our cooperation in energy will continue to be one of the key directions in economic cooperation between Russia and Uzbekistan.
Question: I have a question that logically continues along this topic. At the extended session, you very clearly made mention of the fact that in politics, there are two deciding factors: trust and interests. I would like to ask about these interests: what are Russia’s plans and position in regard to constructing hydroelectric facilities in several Central Asian countries, and how are the interests of other governments in the region taken into account?
Dmitry Medvedev: What can I say? Different kinds of projects, especially ones as comprehensive as hydroelectric stations, must be made with consideration for the opinions of one’s neighbours. You cannot proceed in isolation. It will not lead to any results, or it will cause tension which will later need to be resolved using political, rather than economic, methods; this is without even talking about more dangerous directions and approaches to resolving conflicts. Therefore, when we are talking about cooperation in hydroelectric projects, fulfilling any kind of orders, the Russian Federation presumes that each government that wants to build something must agree on it with its neighbours, provide suitable proof that the project will be ecologically consistent and take on the role of a normal, full-fledged customer of a given job. In that regard, I presume that all interested governments must discuss this issue on a collegial basis, in accordance with international agreements on this topic, as well as their bilateral agreements, in a friendly and neighbourly way. Only in this way can success be achieved. That’s really about it. We presume that these kinds of projects must be implemented based on these principles.