Press Opportunity Following a Meeting of the CIS Heads of State 2002-03-01 00:01:17 Almaty Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, I can tell you briefly about the results of our work, but first I would like, on behalf of all the participants, to cordially thank Kazakhstan, the people of Kazakhstan, the leaders of Kazakhstan and President Nursultan Nazarbayev for the offer of this wonderful place to host our meeting and for the brilliant organisation of the event. I think I will speak for all of us if I say that our discussion – though informal, but very intensive and frank – dealt with the most pressing problems of interaction within the CIS. We spoke about the fight against terrorism, the joining of forces and participation of the Commonwealth countries in the efforts of the international coalition. We noted that the military stage is, to a large extent, drawing to a close and that our common task is to create conditions for the normalisation of life in Afghanistan. All the more so because it is a country with which many of our countries have common borders. We discussed this in a practical way. We also discussed further interaction in the sphere of economic cooperation, in the field of economic integration. Various points of view and opinions were expressed, but we were one in stating that this is what all of us need. We also discussed political interaction in the Commonwealth and the aspects that are of interest to the public in our countries. We have focused on key national problems, which are basically international in character and impact the international climate. We have supported the efforts of the Moldavian leaders to resolve internal political contradictions and we believe that the policy of Moldavia, of the Moldavian President, is competent, balanced and aimed at meeting the interests of all political forces by democratic means in order to achieve peace, stability and prosperity in the Republic of Moldavia. At the initiative of the Ukrainian President we have paid due attention to the situation in Ukraine on the eve of the elections. The CIS, as in the case of Byelorussia, will send its observers to these elections. As regards economic interaction I would like to tell you that after concluding multi-format meetings, the representatives of four countries – Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Russia – met together and agreed on their interaction in the energy field, above all gas. We are talking about combining the efforts of our states in this area, especially since such countries as Russia and Turkmenistan are major producers and Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are ready to offer their transportation systems. The interaction will without any doubt be aimed at meeting the energy needs of all the Commonwealth countries, our partners in Europe and the world, including our Asian partners. We will certainly pick up this topic with our other colleagues. We will discuss it in a bilateral format with the Ukrainian President. We have made some good progress in this direction. In spite of the complexity of these issues, there is progress and we will continue to discuss them with our Ukrainian colleagues, cooperating in the context of our common obligations to our partners in other countries. Summing up, we all have reason to be pleased with the meeting. Once again I would like to thank the President of Kazakhstan for the excellent conditions he has created for all of us, for achieving the results that we have. Thank you for your attention. Question: How do you see Russian-Georgian relations in the light of the American presence in the region? Vladimir Putin: We have discussed this topic, including with Eduard Shevardnadze. We are all grateful to him for coming here today in spite of the fact that the internal political situation there is tense, including, among other things, the death of the Security Council Secretary. Even so, the Georgian President is here, and that is a very good, positive factor that enables us to clarify some aspects of our interaction, including in the fight against terror. We highly appreciate cooperation with Georgia in this area, especially in the past few months. After replacements in the leadership of the military and security structures – and I said so frankly – interaction has proceeded at a much faster pace and its quality has improved. I note not only the visits of security and defence ministers to Georgia and Russia, but the quality of that work. Secondly, every country has the right to pursue its own security policy. Georgia undoubtedly has such a right, too. And Russia recognizes that. We have said that we have been in very close contact with our Central Asian partners in the context of the international anti-terrorist coalition. This is not to say that anybody is asking Russia’s permission to do this or that, but because the quality of that work depends on us and since what is happening in these regions impacts our internal life, we thought we should coordinate our actions. What is happening on the domestic political scene in Russia in connection with the appearance of the American force in Georgia? It is not and cannot be a tragedy. Why can they be present in Central Asia and not in Georgia? Why should Georgia be an exception? Of course it isn’t. The question lies elsewhere. The question is that in this case we have not been told anything about it. And I remarked on this. A misunderstanding of what is going on has provoked the reaction. We had received information from the American side, but unfortunately, our Georgian colleagues were rather slow in providing the information. I think this caused the stormy reaction. Having said that, I don’t think that playing up the situation benefits the fight against terror as a whole, or our bilateral relations. What benefits them is the effective, mutual, persistent and purposeful work we intend to continue with the Georgian President in the same way as it has been done over the past months.