President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Dear Mr President, I am pleased to welcome you to Russia, to Sochi. I am glad to have the opportunity to meet and discuss a number of current topical issues.
Russian-Syrian relations are developing steadily, confidently. If you take economic relations, and this is an important moment, in the past year we have reached the impressive figure of one billion dollars in trade. Already in the first five months of this year our rates of trade have doubled, so in my opinion this is not bad at all.
Our relations in other spheres are also developing. This is certainly important as well. In addition, our relations have traditionally been a key factor in the dialogue on the most complex, the most important international issues. I think that today we will talk about the problems surrounding a Middle Eastern settlement. Let's talk about other issues too, including new ones which have recently emerged. We are grateful to Syria for its support on issues related to the well-known recent conflict with Georgia, which committed an act of aggression against South Ossetia.
We can discuss all issues that are currently relevant to the Russian-Syrian dialogue, Russian-Syrian cooperation, cooperation which in our opinion is developing very confidently.
Once again I would like to welcome you to Russia.
President of Syria Bashar al-Assad (as translated from Russian): Thank you, Your Excellency, for these words.
This is our first meeting since your election as President. It is an excellent chance to get acquainted. I want to congratulate you on the confidence that the Russian people have shown in you.
Syria aspired and continues to aspire to develop the historical and strategic relations between our countries, relations that have always been designed to further the interests of security and peace throughout the world.
As you mentioned, our relations have developed especially well in recent years. We will discuss this today, both in light of the agreements that our countries have concluded and how to further develop our relations in this framework.
Of course there are a great many issues to be discussed, including the newly created problem in the Caucasus, as well as the problem of the Middle East, which has a long history. It is worth mentioning that these problems are largely similar, even more so since both regions are of strategic relevance in the global geopolitical order.
In this regard, we wish to once again express our support for the Russian position as regards the recent conflict and the general situation around Abkhazia and South Ossetia. We agree with the essence of the Russian position and understand the military reaction to the events that took place; we consider this to be a reaction to provocation by Georgia. We appreciate the courageous decisions of the Russian leadership, which has supported international initiatives and decided on the early withdrawal of troops from the area. We support you in this situation and oppose any attempt to tarnish Russia’s reputation or misrepresent its position, which in this situation is both logical and explicable.
We will also have the opportunity to discuss issues of the peace process, including with respect to indirect contacts with Israel, which we are carrying out via Russia. We know that you have always supported efforts to reach a peace settlement and we are interested in the support and assistance you can provide that will help this process move forward.
I would like to thank you once again for the invitation and for your kind words. I hope that during this short meeting we will be able to agree on many things in the interests of our peoples and our regions.