President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen,
This was my first meeting with President Hugo Chavez, and I am glad that it has taken place and has enabled us not just to make acquaintance but to discuss a great many issues. I therefore consider it to have been very productive.
Our relations are developing very well. These are relations based on mutual trust, and I can say today with all confidence that they reached a principally new level.
Trade between our countries recently passed the billion-dollar mark, and this is not the limit. We talked today about how best to optimise our trade relations and enrich them with promising new projects.
We have mutual and very substantial possibilities in the energy sector, where our countries are both major fossil fuel exporters. The agreements signed just now between Gazprom, Lukoil, TNK-BP, and the Venezuelan corporation, PDVSA (Petrуleos de Venezuela S.A.), will lay the foundation for serious large-scale investment and for developing cooperation in all different areas.
Although we have these genuinely very important projects in the energy sector, global projects, you could say, our cooperation is not limited to this sector alone. Today, we also discussed projects in the mining industry, machine-building, transport infrastructure, and the possibility of developing projects in the area of engineering communications and high technology. The Intergovernmental Commission and the Russian-Venezuelan Business Council will meet soon, and I hope the decisions my colleague, the President, and I have taken today will be given concrete application in the form of the additional decisions needed to implement these big projects.
We discussed not only trade and economic relations, though they are very important, but also regional and international issues. The Russian Federation considers Venezuela an important partner. In my opening remarks I said that our relations are becoming a key factor in ensuring regional security. But just as important is the fact that our countries share the same position regarding the priority of international law and the central role of the United Nations in the search for collective responses to the complex challenges we face today. Our common task is to make the surrounding world more democratic, fairer and safer, and this is a task the President and I are ready to work on together.
President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez: Thank you very much, Mr President, not only for these words, but also for the warm welcome you have given us in this special place. It has been almost ten years now that I have been President of my country, and I think this is the first time in all these years that I have felt this kind of warmth and heartfelt feeling straight away at the first meeting, and that our talks have been so productive.
Thank you, Mr President. Thank you to all your ministers, all your team, to Russia’s businesspeople, and all the journalists and cameramen. Look how fast they’re filming us, as if they’re shooting at us.
I send my greetings to all of you, and to Russia, which is a country we carry in our hearts. I send my greetings to Russia’s youth, its workers and leaders, to its history, its soldiers and its manufacturers and entrepreneurs. We, Russia and Venezuela, feel ever closer to each other every time, and these are not empty words but are an expression of what we feel in our hearts.
I think that we have already gone some way towards establishing a new architecture, to use your own words. You spoke of establishing a new world architecture. I think that this concrete effort is part of the work to establish this new architecture – a new political, geopolitical, economic, financial and energy architecture – so as to put an end to hegemony and a unilateral approach and create a multi-polar and polycentric world that will ensure peace throughout the world, peace in every country, between countries and continents, peace across the entire planet.
On behalf of the Venezuelan people, I thank you for Russia’s support and cooperation. Today, we have moved to an even higher level and opened up new horizons for cooperation. Our cooperation was already at an excellent level, but there is always room for improvement, especially in such a fast-changing world.
Regarding the financial crisis, we support what you said, Mr President, namely that the rouble should become a world currency. Even in OPEC we proposed ending the use of the dollar in oil talks and oil deals. Venezuela and Iran made this proposal. It would be a fine thing for the rouble to become one the world currencies and be used for international transactions and deals.
Russia has ensured its growth now and has colossal reserves. Ten years ago your gold and foreign currency reserves were practically nothing at all. On a different scale, of course, Venezuela was also at practically zero level. Now we are establishing the inter-American bank with Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay and Paraguay. We are now liberating Latin America. This is a peaceful and democratic liberation, a process of cultural, economic and social liberation.
Thank you very much for your words, Mr President. We can say that Russia and Venezuela have succeeded in establishing a strategic alliance in the energy sector. You saw how many important agreements we signed today with Gazprom, Lukoil and TNK-BP. Thank you for your patience. Over these years, these last 5–6 years, we have quietly followed this road and today signed the agreements that will enable us to build up our cooperation in this area – in developing the gas sector in Venezuela and Latin America.
I welcome you all to Venezuela. Work will soon begin with Gazprom on drilling the first offshore gas well in the west of Venezuela, and we will also begin work with Lukoil on drilling the first wells along the Orinoco River valley. We will start on this work with a view to later setting up a joint venture to develop oil production and processing. Our countries are both major energy powers. It is in this way that we are building the new architecture.
We were extremely pleased to hear your words about the possibility of establishing a joint Russian-Venezuelan bank. This would be an alliance in the financial sector to finance all our projects. The project to build railway lines with your help is of immense importance. We are making progress on our first projects for a new national railways network, and in projects in the mining industry, in mining precious metals such as gold. Military-technical cooperation is extremely important for our defence and is a fundamental part of the national Bolivarian process. We share the same position in all of these areas and on main foreign policy issues.
I take this opportunity to once again express our admiration for Russia and its government. I wish you personally all possible success together with our great friend, Prime Minister Putin, and all your team and everyone representing the government and the business community, and the Russian people, who have been a fraternal people to us ever since Francisco de Miranda came here 200 years ago. Today, we are working together to create this new homeland.
We admire Russia. I offer you my hand.
QUESTION on the situation on the world oil market and the creation of an organisation on the lines of OPEC in the gas industry.
Dmitry Medvedev: The situation on the oil and gas market is always at the centre of public attention and debate. We spoke recently about what we have called the energy security concept.
Russia and Venezuela are both big oil and gas producers and much depends on our coordinated action, including energy security. We will work together in coordinated and proper fashion. Our cooperation is not aimed against anyone. It is mutually beneficial cooperation that is in the interests of the Russian and Venezuelan peoples. I think that our cooperation can benefit not only our countries but also the countries working together with us, and their number is considerable and is growing.
As for the situation with oil prices, these prices do not depend on the position taken by just one or several countries. Of course, they do have a relation to countries’ policies, but they are nonetheless determined by other factors on the world oil and gas market. The dynamic in prices over the last few decades clearly demonstrates this. Prices should not become a hindrance to world development, this is absolutely clear. Prices should be fair, but this does not mean that some kind of agreements in relation to these prices can be imposed on third countries.
As for cooperation in the gas industry, I can say almost the same thing, but there is indeed no organisation similar to OPEC in the gas market. There are various proposals today for discussing the possibility of creating an organisation on these lines, or at least concluding some international agreements. No decisions have been made in this area, but I think it would be wrong to consider the issue closed.
Question: Dmitry Anatolyevich, how do you assess overall the outlook for Russian investment in Venezuela? Are there any obstacles still in place? Various representatives of the international community have spoken out of late on the situation in Zimbabwe, including the Russian Foreign Ministry. I would like to hear your view on resolving the situation in Zimbabwe.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you.
My colleague and I just spoke about the development of our cooperation with Venezuela. It is developing very well. We did indeed take a big step forward today. I am pleased that my first meeting with the President was marked by the signature of these agreements. This is a good thing. We agreed not only that these agreements would be signed today in our presence, but also to oversee the implementation of specific projects we consider to be of key importance, most advantageous and most investment-intensive. These are projects in the oil sector, in gas trading, and infrastructure projects. We discussed the question of developing the rail network in Venezuela and in South America in general. Our cooperation is entirely concrete, substantive and supported by a well-developed legal base, and I am sure that it has a very good future.
To reply to your question about Zimbabwe, this subject has indeed been at the centre of attention of late. We discussed it during the G8 summit in Japan, and the declaration adopted at the summit expressed our concern at the developments in Zimbabwe, including with regard to how the election took place. This was our common position. But we did not agree on having the UN Security Council move immediately to impose sanctions. On the contrary, at my insistence, reference to the Security Council was deleted from the draft resolution because I think that, in accordance with the United Nations Charter, the Security Council should deal with issues of a somewhat different nature.
I said to my colleagues from the outset that we need to give our African partners the chance to work on this problematic issue together with the authorities and the opposition in Zimbabwe. In other words, give them the chance to hold consultations. The latest developments confirm that this was the right position. Just a few days ago, President Mugabe met with the opposition leader, Tsvangirai, and through the mediation of South African President Mbeki, reached an agreement on overcoming their differences and, I hope, restoring civil peace and dividing possible powers. Our position has been consistent on this issue and these consultations confirm its correctness… It makes no sense to try giving other interpretations to our position, because it was precisely the chance for consultations that we were talking about, and I hope that the consultations taking place will result in the basic agreements to resolve the situation.
Hugo Chavez: Thank you to the press, though no one asked me a question.