Beginning of Talks with Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt 2007-03-02 17:46:41 Novo-Ogaryovo President Vladimir Putin: Mr Prime Minister, Colleagues, It gives me great pleasure to see you in Moscow. You know well how highly we value the high level of relations between Russia and Belgium. It is particularly good to see how our bilateral relations have picked up. I know that you visited several of our big companies this morning. Your visit, it seems, really is a working visit in the most direct sense. Today we have the opportunity to discuss our programme of joint action for the next two years, the programme that we drew up during my visit to Belgium. We will also discuss other issues of interest to you, Mr Prime Minister, and we can examine any international issues you feel necessary. Welcome! Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt: Thank you very much for this opportunity to meet with you, Mr President. If you have no objection, I would like to mention a number of the issues on our bilateral agenda. This morning I did indeed visit one of your companies, Alrosa. We have reached an agreement on the need to strengthen the ties between Alrosa and the city of Antwerp. We realise the importance of cooperation between the world’s biggest diamond producer and the world’s biggest diamond trader. This cooperation is a logical step. I also visited Gazprom this morning. Belgium is at the crossroads of gas transport and distribution routes, and we have agreed that this offers broad prospects for developing our cooperation. It would also be good to analyse a number of issues with you, including the Iranian nuclear issue, for example, and the status of Kosovo. Our attention is also focused on the Middle East conflict and the situation in Lebanon. Vladimir Putin: Yes, Alrosa, one of the world’s biggest diamond producers, does indeed have solid and reliable partnership relations in many countries, and an alliance with partners in Belgium is certainly a natural step. Regarding the energy sector, this is an area in which we have many interests in common, and not only in the trade and transportation of fossil fuels, but also in electricity and nuclear energy. As far as gas goes, you are absolutely right, Mr Prime Minister, and we could carry out an ambitious project that would benefit not just Russia and Belgium but the whole of Europe. This project would involve building large gas storage reservoirs for Europe from which gas could then be transported to third countries, including to the United Kingdom, using the underwater gas pipeline transport system that already exists in Europe and that has its natural starting point in Belgium. Furthermore, our companies are already working on swap operations. We have thus already taken the first steps towards working in markets in third countries – in North America and South Korea. This cooperation could be expanded considerably. We will have the opportunity today to discuss these and any other issues, including those you have just mentioned.