Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all I would like to express my gratitude to Her Majesty the Queen for her thoughtful invitation and for her hospitality and cordial welcome that we experienced here. I would also like to thank everyone else, first and foremost Mr. Prime Minister for the wonderful organization of the visit and packed program. We are touched by the warm relations with which we have been met everywhere here.
Kind feelings are traditional for relationships between our peoples and for our contacts on all levels. We see in this a visual appearance of mutual empathy and respect to one another.
Our talks have just ended with the prime minister and I would like to thank my colleague for how the discussion was held. We had the possibility to speak one on one, tete-a-tete. Then we spoke with the members of the Russian delegation and the leading Cabinet ministers. This was a very interesting discussion. We emphasized once again the strategic character of our partnership and noted the growing dynamics of political dialog, a dialog which gives a tonality to the entire complex of the Russo-British interaction. We are also satisfied with the positive moments that have occurred in our trade, economic and investment cooperation.
Today, the prime minister and I participated in the opening of the energy conference where there were authoritative specialists in this field. This once again demonstrated the greatest possibilities and perspective of our interaction in this important area. In particular, during the conference the Memorandum on the Cooperation in the Project of Constructing the North European Natural Gas Pipeline was signed. The prime minister and I expressed our support for this project.
We also welcomed the recent decision from ”British Petroleum“ and ”Shell“ on their large investments, around 17 billion dollars, in the development of the Russian fuel and energy complex. I had the chance to speak with the CEOs from both companies. This was not my first meeting with these people. I hope that their work with the Russian partners on our Russian market, as well as the joint activity on the markets of third countries, will be successful. The completion of these plans will certainly, and here the prime minister is completely correct, place Great Britain in the first place in the volume of investments in Russia's economy.
We also talked about the necessity of involving other fields into this cooperation, in particular in the high technology areas.
New possibilities for the interaction of our exporters on the markets of third countries are opening up with the signing of the Agreement between ”Vneshekonombank“ and Great Britain's Credit Exports Guarantee Department. Important agreements on credit have also been reached with Russia's ”Vneshtorgbank.“
Much or our conversation traditionally dealt with external political issues. We exchanged our opinions on the development of the situation in Iraq and we spoke about our cooperation in other regions of the world, including the Middle East. We are one in understanding the importance of the practical realization of the provisions stipulated in the ”Road Map“ in the Middle East, as well as the establishment of the appropriate mechanism to monitor the situation.
We also touched upon the topic of Iran. I informed the prime minister on the parameters of the Russo-Iranian cooperation. We came to the unanimous opinion on the need for further encourage Teheran’s cooperation with IAEA.
We also have much in common in evaluating the situation in Afghanistan and in regard to the perspectives of her reconstruction.
Amongst other topics discussed, as the prime minister was correct in saying, were the topics of Southern Asia and the situation on the Korean Peninsula and the interrelations of Russia with the European Union and NATO.
In summary, I would like to note that our meeting, as usual, was held in a constructive atmosphere. Once again I would like to thank respected Prime Minister, my friend, Mr. Blair for the atmosphere which he created during this visit.
Question: A question to the prime minister and the president of the Russian Federation: You spoke at the energy forum about Greater Europe. Is Great Britain prepared to unite with Russia, France and Germany in the interests of Europe's development on a world scale? And a question to President Putin: Mr. Putin, during the reception at Buckingham Palace, you said that practice has shown that in regard to Iraq it is necessary to act together and only then those actions would give results. Which actions exactly should be done together?
Putin: You know that our opinions with Mr. Prime Minister don't always coincide. However, if this happens, then we speak openly to each other and don't hide this from the public. By the way, I completely agree with what the prime minister said today. I am prepared to take responsibility for each and every word said here. Actually, we are prepared to work now on the key issues which we are working on together. In regard to Iraq, as I believed before and as I can confirm today, we can and will work together here. The best confirmation of this is the last resolution accepted unanimously by the UN. The prime minister has just mentioned that. I would like to emphasize: unanimously.
Moreover, I have already publicly said it here today in London and want to say it one more time that the main parameters of this resolution were agreed upon by us during Mr. Prime Minister's visit to Moscow. At that time we couldn't tell the press about the results of our talks because it wasn't clear if we could convince all the members of the UN Security Council in the approaches that we had designed. We were able to do this, as you can see. And to a great extent this was done during the prime minister's visit to Moscow. Today, on the basis of this resolution, we are prepared to go further.
We spoke today on the subject of political settlement. I believe that we have a good example, and following it, we could effectively work on the Iraqi issue. This example is the joint work on Afghanistan. It is well known how decisions were made on the organization and legitimization of power in Afghanistan. It seems to me that this could be taken as the foundation and work together. It is no less important to solve the problems of the country's economic renewal. And here we are prepared to work jointly. We talked about that today. I informed the prime minister of our talks with the president of the United States and we also met with understanding there. There are many problems, but I would like to reiterate the idea I have already said. If we work together, then we will of course work more effectively.
Question: What is Great Britain's position on the euro today? How does Russia see the issue of the euro?
Putin: As to our relation to the position of the British government in regard to the euro, then I believe that you should give that question to the countries in the euro zone. This question should be addressed to Mr. Chirac, Mr. Schroeder, Mr. Berlusconi, and other European leaders. But we do, of course, have a relation to the process going on in Europe. I'm not going to dodge your question and please you with my openness.
We have a strategic and pragmatic attitude to what is going on in this area. I must say that today the pragmatic and strategic approaches contradict one another. The fact is that we are not very interested in the strengthening of the euro and in the processes that are going on today because we sell our export goods with the dollar, but goods of mass demand, which constitute the bulk of most of our imports, we buy with the euro. Therefore, it is better for us if the euro was lower and the dollar higher and stronger. In speaking about the issues of a strategic character, I must say that if Europe wants to play a serious and noticeable role in the world in the future, if it doesn't want to just live out its life, but win in the sharpening dramatic competitive struggle against global economy, and I mean the huge, incredible growth rates in the economies of other regions of the world, then, of course, Europe must unite. And this is in our strategic interests, insofar as Russia both geographically and mentally considers herself a part of Greater Europe.
We believe that at the base of European identity is, first and foremost, culture and Russia without a shadow of a doubt belongs to this part of European culture, is an active participant in world culture, and has made and will continue to make her contribution to its development. We feel like part of the world. Therefore, of course, we will always support not only the integration of Russia into the European economy, but will also support any positive processes in regard to strengthening Europe in the world.
Question: I have a question for the president of Russia: During your current visit to Great Britain, much was said about cooperation in the area of economy and in particular in the area of energy. When will we see the practical results of these agreements?
Putin: We already have practical results. Today, we are the witnesses to the growth in the volumes of trade turnover between Russia and Great Britain. In comparison with the same period of last year, this trade turnover has grown by 15%. This is a very good variable. Yesterday, I spoke about this in the City. The number of trade operations over the last months have doubled. This is a very good variable. And, finally, we have spoken numerous times about the plans of the large energy companies in Great Britain in regard to their investing in Russia. Their work is developing successfully. Today, a document was signed between BP and our group TNK which will lay the foundation for realizing these agreements.
Question: Mr. Putin, what is your position on Iraq today? At Novo-Ogarevo you laughed at the prime minister, demanding that he present Iraq's weapons of mass destruction?
Putin: I am very sorry that you interpreted our conversation in Moscow that way. I did not say anything funny then, and moreover, I believe now, as I did then, that this is one of the most important issues. We are not intending to dodge any difficult issues, the prime minister and I speak quite frankly about them. Everyone believed — and we also believed, Russia also believed — that there might be weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. We did not know this for sure, but we proceeded from the assumption that this might be the case, that they might be there. And we, of course, had to somehow close this disarmament dossier, because if we don't know if they were there or not, or if they were there, then we don't know where they were hidden and who has access to them, then this naturally presents a threat. It is a threat in the sense that some destructive elements could somehow get to them. We have to clarify this matter. There is nothing funny here — the issue is very serious. I believe that those who today control the territory of Iraq, including the British forces, should do everything possible to conduct further constructive work towards solving this problem. In our turn, we are ready to do everything within our power, bearing in mind our interests in Iraq, and we shall act very cooperatively and very openly. The improving relations between our special services, who are in constant contact, and not only with regard to the problem of Afghanistan, but also in relation to the global fight against terrorism, should serve as a token of this. Today, the prime minister and I talked in detail about this subject. It is entirely relevant to all the issues connected with Iraq that concern us.
Question: You said that great attention was paid to Iraq during the talks. In your opinion, what are the priority tasks for normalizing the situation in this country?
Putin: In short, our position on the given issue is as follows. In the political context, particular attention undoubtedly has to be paid to stabilizing the situation in this country. The state authority system has to be restored as soon as possible with the assistance of the UN. Moreover, the country should be ruled by the Iraqis themselves, and not by foreign specialists. We are in favor of a single and indivisible Iraqi state.
Every sector, in particular the oil and gas complex, has to be restored in the economic sphere. Our country is ready to play a considerable role in this process, with account for the great experience accumulated in Russo-Iraqi cooperation in the trade-economic and industrial spheres. We are talking about cooperation on an equal basis without any discrimination. Of course, only the Iraqi nation has the right to take control over the country's natural resources.
The humanitarian situation in Iraq remains extremely serious. The international community's priority efforts should focus on this.
We believe that Iraq should integrate with the global community as soon as possible. And not only on the basis of the well-known resolution no. 1483, but with account for the Iraq people's will and its legally elected representatives.
Question: What place did economic cooperation take in your talks?
Putin: We paid particular attention to the problem of economic relations during the talks. Both Russia and Great Britain have made significant gains from the fact that positive trends have emerged recently. According to the results for 2002, trade turnover increased by more than 14% and exceeded 5 billion dollars. But, in spite of the achieved results, there are opportunities for further improving on these results. Therefore, Mr. Blair and I had a in depth discussion about how to expand and diversify our economic cooperation.
Great strides have been made in the investment sphere. Great Britain has moved up to first place on the list of foreign investors. We welcome the decision taken by the leading British corporations BP and Shell to invest billions of dollars in the Russian fuel and energy sector. And we are counting on the fact that this will be a good example for British business circles.
I would like to point to the energy conference that was held during the visit. It brought together our countries' best specialists. At the opening, the prime minister and I talked with those taking part in the conference and were convinced about the great level of Russian and British businessmen's mutual interest in the serious expansion of interaction in the energy sphere.
A highly promising example of such interaction is the construction of the north European gas pipeline that I have already mentioned, which will allow a long-term basis to be formed for stable deliveries of Russian natural gas to western Europe, including Great Britain.
However, the future of Russo-British economic cooperation lies not only in the energy sphere. Today we also talked about interaction in the hi-tech sphere. As far as I know, the Days of Russian High Technologies have just been successfully held in London. They featured the latest designs of Russian scientific research institutes and more than 300 British firms demonstrated their interest in them. I think that this is a good sign.
We talked about cooperation in the space exploration sphere. The latest contacts between Rosaviakosmos and their British colleagues testify to their interest in its development — above all, in the sphere of future space exploration.
When speaking about Russo-British trade-economic relations, I would like to express my gratitude to the prime minister for actively encouraging British businessmen to help Russia integrate into the global economic system and support its aspiration to join the WTO.
We remember that the issue of the European Union recognizing Russia's market economy status was settled on the initiative of Great Britain.
The matter now is to implement these decisions in practice. The existing EU restrictive measures contradict the interests of not only Russia, but also the European Union itself, and do not correspond to the new level of political cooperation.