Russian President Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen,
A few words before we go into the actual press conference. First of all, I would like to thank our Japanese colleagues for the excellent organization of this meeting, for the preparation and very successful conduct of the summit. In my opinion, this contributed a great deal to the results of the summit and the negotiations here in Hokkaido. Let me say from the start that I assess the results of our work as very satisfactory, indeed very good.
The agenda has been very full and we have indeed discussed pressing issues that matter for a very large number of people, not only for the member states, but for the huge number of people living on our planet.
First, as you know, we discussed the state of the world economy where the sharp growth of food prices has caused universal concern. The G8 heads of state were one in stating that comprehensive measures to strengthen food security in the world are needed to stabilise the problem. We are talking about emergency food aid and a long-term package of anti-crisis measures. By the way, our country will contribute to the solution of this problem by substantially increasing agricultural production and food supplies both within the country and in world markets. The main problem, at the end of the day, is an overall shortage of food.
Our initiatives for holding meetings of agriculture ministers and eventually a “grain summit” have been approved. We have taken a fairly careful and balanced approach to the production of bio-fuel which, on the one hand, is a positive track for energy development, but on the other hand, impairs the state of food security, and to the development of genetically modified foods which, of course, meet some food challenges, but on which humanity has not yet achieved a consensus.
Serious attention has been paid to global energy security. In the context of the sharp growth in energy prices, the situation in the commodity markets remains very complex, which bears out the relevance of the decisions worked out two years ago in St.Petersburg during a similar G8 summit. I am referring above all to the interdependence between energy producers, energy consumers and transit states. The summit heard national reports on the implementation of these principles and we believe that they can form the basis for working out additional measures for the further development of energy cooperation.
We are looking at the development of new energy technologies based on the model of energy efficiency. Russia will work vigorously in these areas because for us the issue of energy boils down to a large extent to the issue of energy efficiency. We have very large reserves of energy, especially fossil fuels, but at the same time we must work to enhance the energy efficiency of our economy, which will ultimately contribute to the solution of the global task connected with climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
In this vein, another topic discussed was countering climate change. Today the discussion continued with other nations joining in. It was a very fruitful discussion. As I see it – and I draw these conclusions based of my own impressions now – today nations are aware of the danger of ongoing greenhouse gas emissions and are moving from general statements that it would be a good idea to address climate issues to working out very concrete decisions. Naturally, each country has its own situation and economy. Nevertheless this issue has left no one indifferent.
We support the stepped-up efforts of the world community to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and assist the economic development of Africa. The African theme is traditionally high on the agenda of these summits. This time, too, as a follow up to the earlier decisions, we have considered additional measures to maintain peace and stability in Africa and in the developing countries on other continents. Russia is ready to increase its participation in this area and to increase aid to African countries. In particular, we want to assist in strengthening the peacekeeping potential and in developing the health and education system. Especially since the latter two tasks are common with our national priorities.
Another topic was the inadequacy of existing international institutions in the face of the realities that have recently emerged, including the negative processes that we witness, and it is our common goal to provide a consolidated response to these challenges.
As before, counteracting international terrorism is a relevant topic. The positions of our countries on this issue remain unchanged, as our joint statement has indicated. We also reiterated the central role of the United Nations Organization in fighting that evil and new G8 steps in the field of counter-terrorism.
We have managed to narrow the differences over the most complicated regional and international issues: we have discussed them seriously and in some detail. I mean the settlement of the situation in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and the nuclear programmes of Iran and the Korean People’s Democratic Republic. On all these topics we have similar or identical positions on how to solve these crisis situations.
In light of developments in the Middle East, we have confirmed our proposal to host, in Moscow, a conference in support of Middle East peace settlement.
A few words about the meeting between the G8 leaders and those of five major developing countries. The discussion has shown that it is necessary to work consistently to bring the interaction with these states to a new level, to build on the foundation of the Heiligendamm process. Obviously, today no global problem can be solved without taking into account the opinion of leading countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
To sum up, I would stress again my opinion that the G8 today offers realistic and quite promising ways of solving the global problems of security and development. Russia will continue to take an active part in this common work using its increasing potential. We have seen further proof that such a contribution and such initiatives are welcomed by our G8 partners and the world community as a whole.
Once again, I would like to thank our Japanese colleagues for their hospitality and to wish them success at the concluding stage of the G8 presidency. Thank you. I am ready to answer your questions.
Question: Welcome to Japan. We have had a good impression of and have heard good things about your participation in the summit. What is your opinion of it? How close and how divergent are the positions of Russia and Japan on the main problems discussed during the summit, and during the bilateral talks with Japan? Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. I have already said that in my opinion our Japanese friends have made very good preparations for the summit. Like my colleagues, I think, I felt very comfortable working here, everything has been done with Japanese thoroughness and punctuality. In that sense I for one had all the necessary conditions for effective work, for contacts with my G8 colleagues both in the formal events and during informal meetings. So I would like once again to convey through you my gratitude to the Japanese side for the excellent preparation of the G8 summit.
As for our relations, I had a full-scale and fairly extended meeting, considering the G8 format, with my colleague, Prime Minister Fukuda. I see that meeting as one of the most important meetings that I have had at the summit. It has demonstrated that Russia and Japan have similar or simply the same positions on a very broad range of issues, including the issues that were directly discussed at the summit. I am referring to economics, the development of the social sphere, environmental problems and the settlement of complicated political situations. Therefore I believe that our relations are developing very dynamically and economic links have strengthened significantly in recent times. There are some very large projects for which very significant sums have been allocated. For example, more than $5 billion was recently allocated for the Sakhalin project. There are multiple other examples. This is good and very solid evidence of how we propose to go about developing our relations.
I can say the same about the strengthening of cultural ties. Exhibitions are taking place. Shortly before visiting Japan I dropped by to take a look at one such exhibition, it was devoted to the history of the Samurais. It is taking place at the Kremlin, a symbolic place for any Russian. In that sense everything is good. Our bilateral meeting has shown that we have very good prospects for the development of cooperation.
There is one remaining problem in our relations, I mean the solution of the border issue, but we have agreed to continue working on that issue in accordance with the principles laid down earlier.
Once again I would like to thank all the Japanese colleagues and Prime Minister Fukuda personally for the very warm and good atmosphere that was created during our work.
Question: I would like to go back to one theme you have touched upon, the energy issue. Before coming to Hokkaido you visited three countries and energy was one of the central themes of the negotiations you had there. How was that theme approached at the summit, what conclusions and forecasts have you made at the Hokkaido summit? Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. I have already spoken about it. Obviously, energy is a central theme for everybody today. And indeed it so happened that before I came to the summit I visited some countries that are very close to us, I mean Russia. I was in Azerbaijan, in Turkmenistan and in Kazakhstan. Each of these countries has many bonds with Russia, including in the field of energy. We have diversified energy cooperation, so I don’t mind telling you that of course we discussed the development of energy partnership during these meetings.
It is equally evident, and this is reflected in the summit’s documents, that the situation in the energy sphere is very complicated. Development is rapid and new sources of energy are not appearing so quickly, while the traditional sources of energy are not available in anything like sufficient amounts. That entails complicated processes in the field of prices and regarding oil, gas and other sources of energy.
So we discussed that theme during the summit. I have already said that the set of working principles agreed upon in Petersburg is key. The G8 has agreed to continue cooperation on the basis of the declaration on energy security that was adopted in St Petersburg. But we should also think about how to ensure energy security in the face of new challenges. Because, although there is a range of new sources of energy, traditional fossil fuels nevertheless prevail and play the most important role.
Therefore the development of the situation on the oil and gas market will in the long run determine the solution of both complicated food issues and issues connected with climate change.
We have stressed that existing sources of energy could be seriously augmented by many-sided and massive use of atomic energy: Russia and some other states, including members of the G8, have such opportunities. Along with this, the issues of environmental security are well taken care of in the creation of power plants and, accordingly, such is the case for nuclear energy capacities of the new generation. On the other hand, nuclear energy does not create problems with greenhouse gas and in that sense is environmentally absolutely clean. We believe there is very good potential there for cooperation among countries. At any rate we are ready to contribute our share in the framework of the agreements in place on that topic.
There are of course other sources of energy that are at the focus of attention, for example, the production of biofuels. In our opinion, the situation is more complicated there because, on the one hand, it is a promising direction for the creation of energy sources. On the other hand, as I said yesterday, some experts believe biofuels create serious problems on the food market. In the opinion of some experts, 75% of the increase in the price of food has been due to the change in the food policy and the switch of some agricultural fields to the production of biofuel.
So, whatever our assessment of all these problems may be, we have agreed that we will develop above all a second-generation biofuel that does not infringe upon food security. We have discussed that and I believe that it was also an important element of our negotiations, and it too has been reflected in our declaration.
So, energy security was at the focus of attention and I am sure that it will remain at the focus of attention of the G8 states in the years to come because of the importance of that problem for the world economy and the economies of individual countries.
Question: In their document on global food security the G8 leaders stressed the need to reduce export restrictions. Which countries, in your opinion, take the most protectionist approach? And what should the US and the EU do to support agriculture?
And my second question, if I may, is about Zimbabwe. The G8 has issued a highly critical statement on the issue. Does it mean that Russia backs the American resolution on sanctions tabled at the UN Security Council?
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you. It is true that food security is partly connected with the export policies of those states that are the main food producers in the world. Naturally, that topic came up for discussion. Obviously, protectionism as such, while it may protect certain interests, is harmful on the global scale. Just recently I had occasion to discuss the topic during the Petersburg conference and in other places: of course we see excessive protectionism as a form of economic selfishness. Although countries understandably try to protect their markets, it should not take absurd forms and it should not upset the existing configuration of food supplies because, at the end of the day, the lives of thousands and millions of people could be at stake.
The policy of the Russian Federation in that sense is quite flexible. We are not shutting down our market, indeed we actively buy some foodstuffs in the world market.
A number of countries do indeed pursue actively protectionist policies, subsidising food, including the food produced by the national producers. I believe there should be reasonable limits to all that. In any case I think that on the whole the policy of the biggest states in that sphere must be discussed not only within the G8, but also in other formats. For example, at the FAO, that is, in the framework of the United Nations, and at other forums. In this context I would like to stress our proposal to the agriculture ministers of the G8 states to meet and discuss these issues, including export duties and protectionism, which sometimes create fairly serious global problems. So, we will be working on that.
As regards Zimbabwe, the issue was indeed on the agenda discussed by the G8. The elections held in Zimbabwe have left a feeling of dissatisfaction in the world community. The issue came up at a separate discussion in which African states took part. So the statement of the G8 voices our concern over the processes that have been taking place in Zimbabwe and urges the search for solutions to the current situation. It also gives recommendations on how the world community should react to these processes.
But so far there are no concrete decisions as to how the United Nations should proceed in this case and whether special further decisions are necessary. But the G8 has expressed its concern.
Question: The US has signed an agreement on the deployment of missile defence systems with the Czech Republic. What will Russia’s next steps be in the relations with the US over that issue and have you discussed the topic with the G8 colleagues? If so, what has been their reaction? Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: Of course we have discussed this issue. It cannot but worry the Russian Federation. I discussed the issue in my bilateral meeting with my opposite number, George Bush. And we discussed it in a broader format.
It is obvious that after the signing of the agreement in question a new phase in the creation of the third position area has begun. We find this situation extremely saddening. We have repeatedly stressed both earlier and during this summit, that this is not the way to tackle the issues of European security. We were prepared to do joint monitoring with the United States and with other NATO countries to prevent the problems that may arise in trouble spots on the planet.
Unfortunately, there has been no response to this. The negotiations that they have been conducting with us are half-hearted and they have brought no results. Instead, they go ahead signing agreements on the issue. It means that the idea will be followed through. I repeat, that does not suit us. I said that plainly to my colleagues. Of course we are not going to become hysterical over the issue, but we will think about our response. At the same time I would like to say that we are not closed to further negotiations and we will continue them, including with our G8 partners and the states that are members of the North Atlantic alliance.
Question: You have had a very tight schedule recently. You have had more than ten bilateral meetings in Japan. Could you single out any of them?
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you.
I would like to say that all these meetings have been useful and they have been interesting for me. I am sure that they were necessary. So, I wouldn’t single out any one in particular. But perhaps the main thing is that my colleagues and I have managed to exchange information on the development of bilateral relations within a fairly short time. Very often the issues that were raised were discussed in a constructive mood. We spoke about the prospects for development of cooperation, the international challenges and the threats to which we must react. But there were some complicated issues. One of them was anti-missile defence. That issue was also discussed.
So these contacts, known as contacts on the “fringes” of the summit, are convenient and useful because they provide an opportunity to quickly exchange the most essential information and at the same time to discuss global issues.
I think each of these meetings made great sense and was significant for our country. As for the concrete results, time will tell.
Question: On the eve of the summit one could often hear the opinion that such G8 meetings have become ritual events and produce no results. Because you are taking part in the summit for the first time in the capacity of the President, does your first impression confirm or refute that? And in general, to what extent can it be said that the G8 leaders are ready to recognise their responsibility for the current global challenges? Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you.
It is true that I am looking at it with a fresh pair of eyes and I can tell you frankly that I was pleasantly surprised at the level and depth of the discussion engaged in by the heads of state in formal and informal meetings. This is not a “do” where the leaders meet and consider materials prepared in advance by sherpas. The situation is the reverse: we see a very profound analysis of the proposals – on declarations and on the current situation in the world – that are of interest to the participants and are of course on the summit agenda.
In that sense I believe that the G8 has very good potential. It is a working format in which the heads of the state that account for much of the economic potential on our planet can quickly and informally get answers to the most pressing questions in informal meetings.
I think that is very important and very useful. No other bilateral talks and even official visits, for all their importance, are capable of yielding such results. To solve a multi-lateral task we first have to call one colleague, then another and meet a third, and that may take months. Here we have a unique opportunity to discuss the most complicated issues at one table without mediators and, I would say more, without diplomats, although they play a very positive role. And that is what the G8 meetings give all their participants.
So my impressions are very favourable, I am very grateful to all my colleagues with whom I have spent many hours over the past three days. I hope it will be useful.
Thank you very much.