President of Turkey Abdullah Gul (retranslated): Mr President, dear friend Mr Medvedev,
Ministers, dear guests, ladies and gentlemen,
The president of a friendly state and his accompanying delegation are in our country on a visit; this is a great honour for us. Once again, welcome to our country!
Let me first of all offer my condolences in relation to the recent coal mine accident that claimed the lives of many Russian citizens.
This official visit by President Medvedev is coinciding with the 90th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Russia, and is a proof that our ties are boosting making both countries proud of their rapid development.
Last year, I made a state visit to the Russian Federation and received exceptional attention there. I visited Kazan and many facilities in Moscow which left me with most positive impressions. I am truly pleased that this visit is taking place less than a year after.
In Moscow, we adopted a declaration on the development of our relations and agreed on a more advanced partnership. Within those agreements we have since had high-level contacts. Our prime ministers and ministers have exchanged visits thus contributing to strengthening our cooperation. Today, this cooperation and our mutual good-neighbourly relations are evolving toward a strategic partnership of the highest level which is exceptionally satisfying to see. Relations between Turkey and the Russian Federation are rapidly expanding in all spheres as was mentioned today by President Medvedev at our talks.
We held talks yesterday, and today with our entire delegations taking part; we reviewed our interaction on political issues and discussed various subjects. We were pleased to see similarity in our approaches. We advocate the resolution of regional problems through dialogue. In this regard, we are ready to show solidarity and support each other.
Indicators of our economic and trade relations inspire pride as in 2008 our trade turnover reached 37 billion dollars. In line with our earlier decisions, within five years we now intend to increase bilateral trade to 100 billion dollars and in this regard we once again reaffirmed our determination.
In the energy sector, very large projects are being implemented jointly by Turkey and Russia with some entirely new projects already on our agenda. In this respect we confirmed our intention to continue cooperating in gas and oil pipelines construction and nuclear energy development.
We also assessed our achievements in other sectors of the economy and in trade in particular. We discussed the possibility of employing our national currencies for trade and economic transactions which is also an indicator of the maturity of our trade and economic relations. The above matters were discussed in detail.
The sphere of tourism has been showing visible success with over three million tourists visiting our country, and this is an evidence of strengthening ties between our peoples.
Turkey cooperates with the Russian Federation in the UN Security Council where Russia is a permanent member and Turkey holds a rotating seat. We maintain our cooperation at a high level. I refer to our cooperation on the Middle East problems, the nuclear programme of Iran, the settlement in the Caucasus and the stability in the Balkans. All these are areas of our cooperation.
At various international organisations we have demonstrated our mutual resolve to fight any manifestations of terrorism; our interaction continues and we support each other. We have seen important examples of such support as Mr Mevlut Cavusoglu was elected Chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) with the strong support of Russian deputies. We will maintain our dialogue on candidates at international organisations in the coming years and will continue to support each other.
The agreements already signed today, the negotiations and the agreements to be signed in the office of the Prime Minister are also clear proofs of the advanced level of our relations. Elimination of visa requirements, agreements in transportation and communications, and cooperation in fuels are the achievements we can be truly proud of. Still, we look forward to further expanding these relations and have the will to do that.
Once again, we express our satisfaction and the satisfaction of the Turkish people with the results of your visit and declare our determination to continue our joint efforts.
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: President of Turkey Abdullah Gul, ladies and gentlemen,
Today is indeed a special day in Russian-Turkish relations, and it continues the large amount of work accomplished recently, the meetings we have held, and the visit that Mr President made to Russia last year. Mr President, I want to start by thanking you for the reception accorded the Russian delegation and myself here, on hospitable Turkish soil.
We had the opportunity yesterday to discuss a wide range of issues in an informal setting. We discussed international issues above all, but also spoke about our bilateral economic ties and discussed the development of our political systems. We went through practically everything on the very wide-ranging agenda of Russian-Turkish cooperation.
Our relations have undergone radical change over these last years, and today we really can say that we now have strategic and very diverse ties that reflect practically every aspect of our lives. Several significant agreements were signed here just now, laying good foundations for cooperation in the transport sector, and in law enforcement, which is very important too, given that both of our countries face all manner of threats, including terrorism. We signed agreements that expand opportunities for higher education. A whole series of other important agreements were signed during the first meeting of the High-Level Cooperation Council, which has been established specially to support the dialogue between our countries.
We really do have excellent opportunities for developing our economic cooperation. Our trade relations are recovering quite fast from the effects of last year’s crisis. I have already cited the figures today. Over the first two months of this year our bilateral trade increased by more than a third. If this pace continues, by the end of the year we should reach the level we had in 2008. The ambitious goal of tripling our bilateral trade that my colleague, President Gul, spoke about is looking more and more realistic. Perhaps this figure of $100 billion per annum still seems rather hard to attain at the moment, but I think that, overall, this is a goal we can achieve. If we reach this level it will serve as an example for all of Europe.
I remind you that the Russian Federation’s bilateral trade with the European Union currently comes to around $200 billion. It stood at $250 billion before the crisis. Comparing these figures and the goals we have set, this is good reason for us to work hard and good reason too for the European Union to reflect on developing its relations with Russia and Turkey.
We discussed a wide range of issues today. We examined individual aspects of our economic cooperation, and these discussions will continue with the Prime Minister. But I want to say that no matter which field we look at, we have taken our cooperation to a new level, whether in the energy sector, including oil and gas and nuclear energy, the transport sector (we just signed agreements here), and tourism, in which we will take a big step forward today, opening up new opportunities for developing tourism through our decision to abolish visas for each other’s citizens. This is really a historic event. Then we also have a great number of cultural and humanitarian projects that also add to this visit’s results.
Yesterday and today, the President and I concentrated on international issues. Russia and Turkey are working together to maintain global and regional stability. Sitting in the President’s office just now we spoke about the fact that the Black Sea countries themselves, and above all the region’s two biggest countries, Russia and Turkey, bear direct responsibility for the situation in the region. In this regard I want to say once again that we are ready to keep working in this direction. We must observe in full the international laws in place, including the well-known Montreux Convention, and take a friendly line on intra-regional ties, but as I said, the main responsibility lies with our countries, with the countries of the Black Sea region.
We discussed efforts to counter threats and prevent extremism and terrorism, and we will do everything we can to improve cooperation between our law enforcement agencies, military agencies and intelligence services, because these threats are not abstract issues for our countries but, sadly, are absolutely real, and we find ourselves at times having to take tough measures to deal with these dangers, and will continue this combat.
We share very close views on the Middle East peace process. I arrived in Ankara from Damascus. We spoke about how to perhaps make this process more active, make some innovative moves, and I made a number of proposals to the President. I think that we all need to keep working in this direction because there has been something of a slowdown in the process of late, and this is having an impact on the situation in the Middle East and on living standards there. The situation in Gaza is in such a state now that it is close to humanitarian disaster, and even if we cannot solve all of the problems right away, we at least need to make every effort to get the various countries that share a sense of responsibility for the development of events in the region to work on these issues more effectively, so as to bring us closer to actual solutions and decisions.
We discussed the situation in Iraq yesterday and spoke too about the situation in Iran. We share the view that international efforts are required in this region. Our position on Iran is clear. On this matter we share a similar view to that of Turkey. We discussed the need to undertake all necessary efforts to stabilise the situation and incite Iran to take a constructive line, while at the same time emphasising the need to resolve this problem through peaceful means.
Russia and Turkey share an interest in consolidating stability in the Caucasus region, including by settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Russian Federation will continue to work on advancing this process, using its influence and every possibility available to it. Of course, we will consult on these issues with our Turkish partners too.
We discussed issues in the Balkans and also spoke about the problem of a settlement in Cyprus. We agreed to continue our contacts and cooperation on these European matters, including with regard to the Russian Federation’s initiative on the European Security Treaty. The President sent me his comments on the draft treaty proposed by Russia, and I am very grateful to President Gul for the attention he has shown.
Once more, I want to thank the President for this trusting, friendly and constructive dialogue that began with our informal meeting and continued during our talks today. I stress the fact that partnership between our countries is fully in keeping with our peoples’ interests and is an important stabilising factor in our region and on the international stage in general.
Question: A question to President Gul. You just said that the Middle East problem was discussed. What is your assessment of the situation? President Medvedev has mentioned he suggested considering some innovative moves. What is being meant by this? How have you reacted to the suggestion, and, maybe Turkey has some nontraditional ideas of its own on how to resolve this situation?
Abdullah Gul: The Middle East problem is not confined to the Palestinians, or the Israelis, or the Arabs alone. This is a problem that touches the entire world. After World War II, this is probably the most serious problem causing concern in many parts of the globe. This problem must be resolved. Of course, much effort is being made to this effect, including the activities of the Quartet. We appreciate this work. Mr Mitchell [President Obama’s envoy] has been active recently. But regrettably what we see is not sufficient. There should be more initiatives, more steps, and no-one should be isolated.
With reference to Palestine, the Palestinians are divided, so we must, above all, unite the Palestinian people, and, in the first place, meet with both parties. Hamas won the elections, hence Hamas cannot be neglected. Mr Medvedev during his recent visit [to Syria] met with the leader of Hamas [political bureau Khaled Mashal]. When in the past Turkish leaders met with the Hamas leader, there was widespread criticism, but time has proved us right. We cannot achieve peace if some party of the process is isolated. Therefore, both Turkey and Russia are taking initiatives that must be supported by other countries. We invite everyone to come to the negotiating table in order to participate in this initiative. If someone is excluded, that can create another hotbed of instability. Hence a wide-ranging effort is of great importance.
We appreciate the initiatives of the Russian Federation in this regard. Russia, too, appreciates our efforts. We also know of the efforts being made by the US. We all must facilitate this process according to our respective means. Both Turkey and the Russian Federation are in a position to make a significant contribution. The Russian Federation is a permanent member of UN Security Council, a member of the ”Quartet“ and an important participant in this process.
Question: My question is to both presidents. As you announced, the agreement on visa-free travel will be signed today. When will it come into force? Will Russians be able to travel to Turkey for vacationing this summer with no visa charge? What are the benefits Turkey hopes to obtain through the signing of this agreement? Thank you.
Abdullah Gul: In fact, here we are talking about mutual interests, because any agreement is only stable if it meets the interests of both sides. The end of the visa regime for both the Turks and Russians is a satisfying step. Of course, it will primarily benefit tourists and will thus help airlines. It is really convenient for tourists, for the three million Russian tourists visiting our country. It will just make their lives easier. And, after all, this was our duty indeed, so we are proud of having reached this agreement. Therefore, we are grateful to the Russian leadership for the positive steps, and we are thankful to the ministers who worked on this issue.
Dmitry Medvedev: I could not agree more with what Mr President has said. This is a historic, breakthrough agreement, which primarily aims at making life easier for millions of people.
You know, there are benefits from energy agreements, from the agreements in the field of transport, these are all very important things as they generate money for the states eventually filling the coffers and allowing to solve other problems, but they have no evident and immediate impact on the ordinary people. Yet there is a direct link between the agreement we will have signed and the opportunity for someone to come for a holiday.
That agreement is indeed ready for signing. It applies to everyone coming for up to 30 days, including first and foremost, our tourists who come to Turkey on vacation, a very large number of people. Last year, 2.5 million visitors traveled here, and in the pre-crisis period they were about three million. I think this year as well there will be many Russian visitors who love to vacation in Turkey. And the opportunity to come will now be available to all, and absolutely free in terms of visa charge.
As relates to when the document will come into force, this process goes hand in hand with the preparation and coming into force of the readmission agreement; the document is almost ready and agreed upon, so I hope that very soon all the necessary formalities will be completed and this document will become effective. Let me emphasise again: in my opinion, this is an absolutely unique, breakthrough moment that creates special opportunities for human exchanges between our two countries.
I sincerely congratulate you Mr President, and our Turkish colleagues, and all those who participated in the preparation of this important document.
Question: I have a question for Mr Medvedev. Turkey considers the Nagorno Karabakh problem as a crucial one in the Caucasus. Russia is a co-chair of the Minsk Group. On the agenda was the release of five counties. Are you optimistic, and is the issue moving towards a settlement?
And another question. There is a bilateral process under way between Turkey and Armenia. The contribution of the Russian Federation is viewed positively. Will Russia take steps in this regard to persuade Armenia?
Dmitry Medvedev: The Nagorno Karabakh problem is a very complicated problem, but it is not the only problem in the Caucasus, there are others and also very complicated. You know about them. I believe that a lot of promising steps have been taken in relation to the Nagorno Karabakh problem lately. The parties have had meetings, discussions, and in effect there is progress on a whole range of points related to settlement. But that does not mean that agreements have been achieved by now on all issues.
Consultations are continuing, and I have repeatedly offered Russia's mediation to my partners, I am referring to President [Ilham] Aliyev and President [Serzh] Sargsyan. We met on several occasions in the Russian Federation. I hope that this will continue despite the existence of issues that require clarification of some positions. Naturally, other members of the Minsk Group also have their contribution to make and we look forward to their active position. But the main issues are to be discussed in the first place and above all by the parties to the conflict, namely, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Once again I would like to note that the parties have made quite a serious step forward lately. Now, what is important is not to stop there. I would not want to comment on specific matters such as the number of counties and other aspects of the settlement, because such subjects need to be addressed most scrupulously so as not to cause excessive excitement around the process, especially since Russia plays a special mission. We are not party to the conflict, we are a mediator, but we are rather actively involved in the process. I stress once again that I am personally involved with it and will continue my involvement, and that our foreign ministers meet regularly. In the near future such meetings will continue with participation of the foreign ministers of Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.
As for the settlement and the restoration of relations between Turkey and Armenia, that is another very complicated subject. We are very carefully monitoring the developments and hope that the positive impulse given to this process by the signing of the relevant documents in Zurich will result in subsequent steps. Certainly, these processes are not simple and meet very different responses in the countries themselves, in Turkey and in Armenia, because for obvious reasons this problem remained unsolved for a long time. Yet, I hope that, ultimately, the parties will make all the necessary decisions and fully reestablish their relations, which undoubtedly will help stabilise the situation in our region, encourage the development of economic relations, and as a result just raise the standard of living in all countries in the region.
We therefore welcome this process and will be closely monitoring its evolution, using, of course, the means the Russian Federation possesses. But, ultimately, of course, the solution depends on the two countries.
Question: I have a question to Mr Medvedev. You came here from Syria, where the focus was the issue of nuclear weapons. How do you assess the policies of Iran and Israel on nuclear weapons?
Agreements on energy will be signed. Turkey receives natural gas from Russia, and in large volumes. Was lowering the price of gas discussed?
Dmitry Medvedev: Good question which began with nuclear weapons and ended with prices for Russian gas. What should I answer? Deep inside I hoped that they are not related things: nuclear weapons and the price of our gas. Although, of course, gas is sometimes called a weapon, but it is not a nuclear weapon.
I will first expand on the overall situation in the region. My colleague and my close partner in the talks, the Turkish President, has already said how difficult things are, and noted that not only the countries in the region are responsible for the situation in the Middle East, but that other states are able to influence these processes as well. Of course, if we talk about the situation in the Middle East, a lot depends on the goodwill of all the parties involved, on the position of Israel and of the Palestinian Authority, Palestine, and the positions of other states, including Syria, which I just visited. Indeed, we have agreed to address this issue more actively, with the involvement of all the parties to the conflict, without isolating anyone from the process. Since, for example, what is happening today in the Palestinian Authority shows that in such a divided state it is impossible to solve internal problems and that makes the situation in Palestine itself worse, and as a consequence, it makes it impossible to properly promote the peace process with Israel and with the participation of other actors who act as mediators.
So I think that the possibility of using services and assistance from other countries has not been exhausted. Yesterday at a news conference in Syria I talked about this. I believe that the position of the United States should be more active, and today I noticed that the United States is ready for that having already commented on my statement. It was said that the US has a proactive stance and will continue to try to influence the process. But other states have to contribute too, and in that regard, Russia and the Turkish Republic are also ready to examine a variety of opportunities, to use our experience and the tools in our countries’ disposal.
If we talk about the issue of nuclear weapons, then, of course, here our position is absolutely clear: the Middle East should be nuclear-free. The advent of nuclear weapons or their use would be a disaster. Moreover, if some country here tries to develop its own nuclear programme, that could lead to a very rapid degradation of the situation, and ultimately to very serious consequences. Therefore, we intend to use all our capabilities to maintain contacts with Iran. Of course, we'll discuss the subject with Israel and other states with a stake in the process. I hope that there is still a chance to find a way out of this very complex situation.
But this very difficult situation is not connected to gas at the end. The gas issue is a separate one, and on this subject we will continue talks today with our Turkish partners.
Abdullah Gul: Thank you very much.