Answers to journalists’ questions 2016-09-05 17:20:00 Hangzhou Vladimir Putin answered Russian journalists’ questions following his working visit to China to take part in the G20 Summit. President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon. Let’s dispense with opening remarks and get straight into the discussion. I will try to answer the questions of interest to you. Question: Mr President, this year, for the first time, the G20 summit’s main themes were closer in the applied sense to matters relevant for Russia’s domestic economic situation too. They included building an innovative economy, access to new technology and to technology in general, fair trade, and a new financial system. Could you tell us how the discussion with your colleagues went? Was it more of an exercise in eloquence (as you said here), or will it have practical relevance for Russia? Vladimir Putin: I was joking when I spoke of an exercise in eloquence. I was referring to the foreign policy side of relations. As for the actual work, it was perfectly serious and substantive. It reflected the interests of all G20 countries, including Russia. This year, the Chinese presidency proposed that we concentrate on today’s key questions. What are these questions? First is how to ensure faster economic growth. Yesterday’s instruments, while they have not grown rusty, I hope, no longer produce the desired effects. I am referring to investment, which is subdued, trade, which is not growing, and other dimensions. Our Chinese partners and friends therefore proposed examining the growth rates that will be most promising over the long term. These are above all innovation and innovative development. They put the focus on the need to exchange information and so on and on scientific cooperation in digital information support. We think these are important matters. This concerns protecting the interests of those who create these innovations and involves issues such as civilised protection for patents. That is one aspect. There are many aspects involved. But this is one main area of work. Second, for the first time, we started talks and made a start on drafting work for documents on establishing common rules for investment activity. Third, we continued our discussion on ensuring development principles and goals and the set of components needed for achieving these goals. What I think is important and useful for Russia is that these discussions continued and confirmed the conclusions that we made during our presidency of the G20 in 2013 in St Petersburg. This concerns areas such as combating tax evasion and the shrinking tax base. This was all a central focus at the summit. There were issues of less central attention, but which we nonetheless consider important. There are problems and issues that hamper development in general, for example. We all know these issues. They include uncontrolled migration, regional conflicts, terrorism, the need to protect the environment and so on. All of this is reflected in our documents. Question: Japan is still a member of the G7. Do you think the G7’s common position on Ukraine could hinder development of bilateral relations with Japan? Also, how do you see Prime Minister Abe’s decision to invite you not to Tokyo or to Isashima, but to Yamaguchi? Vladimir Putin: You shouldn’t go looking for problems in our relations in connection with the issues you mentioned. Japan has a particular relationship with the United States, not because it is a member of the G7, but because in its foreign policy line, it takes into account and to a large extent looks to the opinion of its main strategic partner – the United States. This was what led to the restrictions in our contacts over the last 12–18 months. We found this odd in the sense that Japan seemed to have an interest in developing our dialogue, especially on a peace treaty and on resolving related issues (our talks on the territorial issue), but at Japan’s initiative these contacts were effectively suspended. Now though, we have returned to the negotiating table and are working on these matters. I think that Prime Minister Abe made some very interesting proposals when he came to Sochi. He proposed that we reflect on and develop eight main areas for economic cooperation. I think this is extremely important in order to resolve the pressing economic tasks our countries face today, and in order to put in place the conditions for resolving other issues too, including those of a political nature. Can Japan’s position on Ukraine get in the way here? No, it cannot. I don’t see anything here that would obstruct our relations. I have discussed all this with the Prime Minister, and he has raised the issue. I have explained to him what is going on, but overall, we do not see any problems here (not for now, at least). But putting in place good conditions for resolving all issues between us, including concluding a peace treaty, is extremely important. Just recently, someone mentioned our relations with the People’s Republic of China and the resolution of not territorial but border issues. I said then and can repeat now that we spent 40 years in talks with China on the border issue and finally settled the problem. This was achieved on the basis of the high level of trust and cooperation we had attained by the time we concluded the agreement. Question: Did you make any progress on the situation in Syria in your talks with the US President? I understand that you discussed the same matter in your talks with the Turkish President. Are Turkey’s objectives in Syria clear to you? Is there a possibility that Turkish troops could enter Syrian territory and stay there? Vladimir Putin: We cannot be 100 percent certain, but we are continuing our dialogue on these matters, on Syria, with our Turkish partners and with our American partners. We are not giving our support to anything that would go counter to international law, and we cannot do this. That is my first point. Second, for all the difficulties, we nonetheless have moved closer in our positions and in our understanding of what we can do to defuse the situation in Syria and search for mutually acceptable decisions. I don’t think I can say anything final right now because the US State Department and our Foreign Ministry are still finalising several preliminary agreements, but I think that we are on the right road and could reach an agreement for some period of time on what we can do together, and I emphasise this, by way of strenuous efforts to improve the situation in Syria. Of course we would have to consult with the Syrian government and would have to keep our other partners informed, including Iran. Question: Could I continue on this subject? Was Turkey’s recent decision to send troops into Syria a surprise for Russia? This was your second meeting with President Erdogan in the last month. How do you assess the efforts to restore bilateral relations? Vladimir Putin: As far as surprises are concerned, we have our Foreign Ministry and intelligence services precisely to reduce the number of surprises. In principle, we had an idea of what was going on and where things were going. You could see it after all, the troop movements, the objectives, and the problems that Turkey has encountered in connection with events in Syria. And Turkey has many problems here. I think you don’t need to be a great analyst to realise what kinds of problems these are. We see all of this and overall, there were no surprises for us here. But at the same time, I say again that we will not welcome any action that runs counter to international law’s norms and principles. As for the question of restoring our bilateral relations, this work is going to plan. It is progressing not as fast as our Turkish partners would like, but we have an interest in acting swiftly too. It is always a very rapid process to demolish something, but building it anew is always far more complicated. It involves various procedures, government decisions related to, say, our phytosanitary agencies’ work and so on. But this work is progressing. What is most important is that we have established the base for restoring full-fledged cooperation. This foundation was laid by the letter the Turkish government sent to us, apologising for the tragic incident with our plane and the death of our pilot. This was also connected to the fact that, as you know, Turkey has arrested the pilot that shot down our plane. The person who shot from Syrian territory at our pilots when they ejected has also been arrested. Now we are hearing that this incident took place without the Turkish government’s approval in the aim of complicating our relations with Turkey. Apparently, this was done by the same people who later attempted to carry out a coup d’état. We do not know the full facts here and are waiting for the results of the investigation the Turkish authorities are conducting. In any case, we see the Turkish government’s desire to restore our bilateral ties. As for the Turkish people, I think that everyone can see that the Turkish people welcome this restoration of ties, and many people, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people in Russia and in Turkey sincerely want to restore the ties between our countries. Question: Mr President, your meeting with your US counterpart, Barack Obama, on the summit’s sidelines is one of the interesting subjects. You mentioned the Syrian issue, and you also discussed Ukraine. What other issues did you discuss? How did the meeting go in general? Did you discuss the sanctions issue at all? Could you tell us about this meeting? Vladimir Putin: Yes, we did raise the sanctions matter in passing, but we did not discuss it in detail because I see no sense in discussing matters of this sort. It was not our initiative to impose these sanctions. I think discussions on this issue will be something for the future, if we get to this point. I do hope that we will eventually get to this point and will normalise in full our relations with the United States too, which is certainly a very important partner in our eyes. Our bilateral trade with the United States was rather minimal to start with though, only around $28 billion, and now it has dropped to $20 billion. In other words, to be honest, our trade and economic relations with the United States are not so important. As for restrictions on technology, they never ended and the CoCom restrictions were never properly abolished. The lists shrank and were formally lifted, but restrictions remained even when relations were at a high point (in the early and mid-1990s), when there were seemingly no clouds on the horizon. Even then, restrictions were still in place. Now, they have simply increased the restrictions a little. They have not done so completely and absolutely. But this is not a normal state of relations and we would like to restore full-fledged relations with the United States. As for the issues we really did discuss, the first was Syria and the possibilities for our cooperation in this area. Both countries have an interest in fighting terrorism and we sense (I do, at any rate) the US President is also completely sincere in wanting to achieve results in fighting terrorism and resolving the Syrian conflict. The second matter we discussed, of course, was settling the situation in Ukraine. Question: Mr President, could I clarify on relations with Japan? At the plenary session [of the Eastern Economic Forum] in Vladivostok, Shinzo Abe made a rather emotional appeal to you, even using the more intimate form of address, calling on you to take on the responsibility and make a historic decision. He was referring to the territorial issue, of course. Our countries have differing views on this issue. Did you discuss what Japan wants and what Russia is willing to accept? Where is the ‘red line’ with regard to the Southern Kurils? Vladimir Putin: Let’s not start looking for ‘red lines’. Let’s not head into dead ends but travel roads open to traffic, two-way traffic, what’s more. As for the use of the intimate “ty” [you] form of address, Shinzo and I are on these terms in general and this is the form of address we usually use with each other, call each other by our first names and use the intimate form of ‘you’. He spoke emotionally, as you say, but he is in general a politician with character and an excellent orator. He is a good speaker. He demonstrated this at the meeting in Vladivostok. The value in his speeches and remarks wasn’t in this though, but in the fact that he pursued his ideas on the eight areas he set out for our cooperation. We discussed this in more detail and outlined plans and steps for working towards these goals. These are very interesting plans. They are not secret, but I don’t want to lose time on this right now. Take a look at the proposals. As for ‘red lines’, let me say again that we should not talk about ‘red lines’ in this case. After all, we have returned to the negotiating table. I have said many times that this treaty was nothing secret, the 1956 treaty. The Soviet Union obtained this territory as a result of World War II, and this was cemented in international legal documents. The Soviet Union, following lengthy and difficult negotiations with Japan, signed a treaty in 1956, Article 9 of which, I think it is – I’d need to check – states that the two southern islands are to be handed over to Japan. Two islands are handed over. Not everyone here has a legal background. As someone with a lawyer’s training and someone who has worked in international law, international private law, it is true, I can tell you that the treaty provisions say “are handed over”, but do not state on what conditions this handover is to take place, and who has sovereignty afterwards. There are many issues that required further clarification following the signing of the 1956 treaty. What is important here though is that after the Japanese parliament and the USSR Supreme Soviet ratified the treaty, Japan renounced its implementation. They took the view that the treaty did not give them enough and decided to lay claim to all four islands. In the end, neither side implemented the treaty and it was simply left in suspension. Later, the Soviet Union declared too that it did not intend to implement the treaty. Later on again, the Japanese asked us to return to discussions. We agreed and talks began. This is where we are at today. Why do I bring up this 1956 treaty? The Soviet Union received these islands and was ready to return two islands. As I said, it is not clear under what conditions this was to be done, but the islands were to be handed over. There are issues here regarding economic activity, security, many issues, and there are humanitarian matters too. All of this is being examined and receiving our attention. Question: Mr President, I have a question on BRICS. You held a BRICS meeting on the sidelines of the G20. The BRICS countries have stable economic and political situations, but there are exceptions, Brazil, in particular. In this respect, how comfortable was the meeting in terms of discussing important issues and planning ahead? What proposals will Russia take to India, and what will be on the agenda? Since this is an informal discussion, can I come back to President Obama? We heard that it was his initiative to meet with you. When did he let you know? When did he approach you yesterday and propose to meet? When you left the hall, you glanced at the watch. Was this because you talked for longer than you had expected, or that the meeting was more productive? Vladimir Putin: As far as the watch goes and who approached me and when, I don’t really pay such attention to these things. What does really matter? [Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov came up to me, or [Presidential Aide Yury] Ushakov, and said that the Americans wanted to meet. I don’t remember now exactly when and where. This doesn’t really matter. They said they wanted to meet, and why should we avoid direct contact with our key partners on security issues? On other issues too we have many intersecting interests. We exchanged a couple of words in passing yesterday and confirmed that we would meet today. And we did indeed meet today. We had quite a detailed discussion. I do not recall now when I glanced at the clock and why. But we did not have a rushed discussion; we looked at matters in depth. We spent the time discussing and examining the details. I think that we did succeed in hearing each other and gaining an understanding of the problems before us. There are some technical matters to work out. If [US Secretary of State John] Kerry and [Sergei] Lavrov can do this, we will have made another step forward in resolving the Syrian conflict. Question: Regarding BRICS? Vladimir Putin: Regarding BRICS. I’m sorry I didn’t answer this question. Every country faces problems at times. We are now witnessing difficult internal political processes unfolding in Brazil. But problems of an economic and social nature had piled up before that. This is true. There are many. Brazil is a huge country, it is the largest power in Latin America with very good development prospects, a very wealthy country with very talented people. How did BRICS come to be? Let me remind you. When we had a G8 Summit in St Petersburg, I suggested to the Prime Minister of India and the Chinese President that the three of us meet. As you know, there are always certain problems between neighbours, but we managed to agree on that, we met, and then started to institutionalise it, and later it turned into regular contacts. And then Brazil and South Africa decided to join us. We all thought it was a good thing because it would open up the continents of Latin America and Africa. But every nation has its problems. You have problems, and so do we. And China might have problems, as well as the South African Republic. So what? This is why we joined together, to look for ways to overcome those problems. Question: You met the new Prime Minister of Great Britain Theresa May yesterday. What was the outcome of the meeting, and what are your impressions of her? Do you think there are prospects for normalising relations between the two countries, and if so, how would you characterise them? Vladimir Putin: I think this is clear. The Prime Minister is just beginning her job, she needs to sort out domestic issues. But there used to be very stable, full-scale relations between Great Britain and Russia, and we are ready to return to that. The issue is not with us, but the British side. We noted that recently there were events held to mark the anniversary of the Arctic convoys, and Princess Anne came to visit. There have been a great many problems in our history, yet there were also moments that undoubtedly still unite us. We remember it, we know it and we are ready to restore relations with Great Britain, to go with them as far as they wish, but of course, we are not going to impose anything, and we couldn’t if we wanted to. We certainly cannot decide for them the extent to which our relations should be restored. Nevertheless, there are something like 600 UK companies operating in our market and they are not planning on going anywhere. There are very large companies, such as BP, which is one of the major shareholders of Rosneft, as is known. And there are many others operating in different industries. But I think, at this stage, the political leaders of both countries should not get in the way of those who are engaged in essential business. Question: Mr President, continuing with your various bilateral talks, we journalists were all expecting to see you hold trilateral talks with the French and German leaders here at the summit, but as I understand it, you all held separate meetings instead, at their initiative. Ukraine was the main subject of discussion, of course. What agreements did you reach? Seeing as you discussed Ukraine separately with each leader, what is the Normandy format’s future? Vladimir Putin: Yes, we were going to meet as a threesome at their initiative, and then they decided they wanted bilateral meetings instead. This was due to the fact that Federal Chancellor Merkel had domestic political matters to take care of at this moment. As you know, one of the German lander had elections and she was quite simply busy at that moment. I therefore met first with the French President and then met afterwards with the Federal Chancellor. Yes, we did indeed mostly discuss the Ukrainian crisis. As for the Normandy format, for better or for worse it is the only group even trying to find solutions to the conflict now, and so of course Russia continues to support it. Question: Will you speak with [Ukrainian President Petro] Poroshenko? Vladimir Putin: Probably, what else can I do? I will have to speak with him. I said to the Federal Chancellor and the French President that it is not a question of whether to meet or not, but a question of whether our meetings produce some positive steps towards a settlement. I do not think it makes sense to hold meetings just for the sake of it. I had the impression that no one wants to meet just for the sake of it, except perhaps Mr Poroshenko, perhaps. I do not know, as I have not spoken to him for a long time. Question: Mr President, I want to ask about Saudi Arabia and your talks with bin Salman [Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud]. I understand that you discussed Syria and some military matters. You also discussed oil, because some kind of agreement between Russia and Saudi Arabia was announced today. I say “some kind of” because there are no concrete parameters given and reports say only that the countries will work together in order to balance the oil market. I would like to hear some more concrete details on the oil agreement. Could you clarify? The Saudis say that there is no need for a freeze as yet, but you think there is a need. Vladimir Putin: When? Did they say this now? Question: Yes. The minister was at the briefing. We are saying, as it were, that freezing [oil production] is an ideal way to balance prices on the world oil market while the Saudis are saying that this should not be done yet. But when should this be done? Should it be done [at all]? What oil price do you expect to reach as a result of the agreement that the Energy Ministry signed with Saudi Arabia today? And another thing. After the question about oil, could you also comment a little on Syria? Did you actually discuss military cooperation with Saudi Arabia and with Obama, and the fact that an agreement with the United States on Syria that, as you say, may be reached – how ambitious is it and will it, for example, lead to joint military operations in Syria? Vladimir Putin: Regarding our relations with Saudi Arabia, our relations are of a friendly nature. If anything, we agree on the need to work together in some way or other on the world oil market. On the whole – surely you know this – Saudi Arabia did not rule out the possibility of freezing production, and there have been long-running discussions on this issue. What is the problem there? The problem is Iran’s increasing production. However, in my opinion, as I said earlier, under the sanctions, Iran’s production was at a minimum, and so I consider it fair if Iran reaches its pre-sanctions level. There is nothing wrong with this. Iran does not have excessive demands. Nevertheless, unfortunately, we know about the peculiarities of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia. We try not to interfere. However, my impression in the course of contacts with the Saudis is that they do not actually rule this out for themselves, either. As for the price, what should the price be? I will give you a very specific answer: The price should be fair. Question: It is fair now? Vladimir Putin: Not now. It could be a little higher. However, bearing in mind that, as you know, our budget was calculated based on $40 per barrel, this suits us. In principle, the present price suits us. Question: (without microphone). Vladimir Putin: About Syria? Actually, I already talked about it. I believe it is premature now to talk about any parameters of our agreements. Nevertheless, I very much hope that if agreements are reached – and I have reason to believe that this could happen within the next few days – then we will be able to say that our collaboration with the US in fighting terrorist organisations, including in Syria, will significantly improve and intensify. Question: The G20 summit has shown that all countries have economic and political problems and Russia is no exception. However, it often happens that, indeed, the most challenging problems are solved at the personal level, when leaders have exhausted all possibilities for restoring dialogue and problems begin to be dealt with at the most basic level. Erdogan is a case in point. It was a similar situation, when the man went a little over the top and then he made it clear that he had gone overboard and backed down a little, and now relations with Turkey are on the mend. The UK. Likewise, it seems that nothing has changed, but the leader has changed and now there is a chance to restore [relations]. However, I would like to move on to Obama – after all, he is a key partner. Was there something – what if Obama had said, “I went a bit too far there” maybe on the sectoral sanctions, maybe the individual sanctions. Maybe there was something that hurt you, something that seemed unfair to you? If he – not as the leader of a country but as a person – had said in a humane way, “Yes, I went a bit too far there.” Vladimir Putin: So impose sanctions, but in a humane way? (Laughter.) Humanely or not… As diplomats say, there is a substantive part of our relations. If they take steps to worsen our relations then there is no getting away from that. And there are decisions, including those related to sanctions. However, if they want to restore relations, evidently these decisions should simply be reversed and that’s it. As for how this will be done, in what form, that is another matter. The most important thing is to address the core of the problem and try not to deal with problems that arise in a way that is solely to one’s own advantage (at any rate, the way the present leadership understands this advantage), but to search for compromise that would reflect the interests of both partners. If we work with any country on this basis, including with the United States, well, we will always try to do our best, as much as possible, to reach a compromise not only for our own benefit but also for the benefit of our partners because it is not possible to collaborate in any other way. However, I would like our partners in the US also to treat us with the same standards and from the same positions. That’s all. Question: How do you assess China’s contribution to the development of the global economy and the G20 mechanism? Vladimir Putin: Well, here, I probably won’t say anything new. Everyone knows that these are objective data. China today is a leader in terms of economic growth rates and everybody closely watches everything that happens in China, in the Chinese economy. Because a leader is a leader, and I believe that any success, even in countries that have a difficult past history of relations with China, cannot but cause satisfaction, because this reflects on the global economy as a whole. As far as we are concerned, we have all the more reason to be happy because as a country China is our biggest trade and economic partner. Yes, our trade has declined somewhat but we are unfazed by this because I believe something more important is happening. What is this something? It is a change in our structure of trade. Its quality is improving and the number of machines and equipment that we supply to the Chinese market is increasing. We also have large-scale, promising projects in high-tech spheres. This includes not only nuclear energy, although it is very important, but also aircraft manufacturing, space and micro-electronics. We have a large number of joint areas of activity and this is also a big plus in our bilateral ties. The volume and diversification. And of course, China has done a great deal to prepare for the G20 summit, and it has gone extremely well. They have put their heart into organising it, I would say, and it produced results. Because everything we wanted to agree on, despite some unresolved issues, we actually agreed on. All documents were signed, and they put their heart into it, beautifully as the Chinese can do. Question: Has the issue of creating de-facto closed associations, such as, for example, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and Trans-Pacific Partnership been addressed? In your opinion, how effective are meetings, for example, in the G20 format, if a number of countries follow their own rules anyway? In these difficult economic conditions, to what extent do you believe Russia is ready to compete on the global market? Vladimir Putin: You know, of course, there are no decisions here that would be obligatory for the member countries. The G20 does not take legally binding decisions. Many such formats do not take such decisions – in fact none of them do. However, the value of such discussions and such documents lies elsewhere. Their value is that they set a trend. For example, the Chinese presidency has chosen ensuring sustainable long-term growth through innovation as the key topic. To reiterate what we discussed there: information exchanges, sharing research data, protecting patents, the digital economy, and so on. It should be clear to everyone that this form of activity should be given the green light. If somebody moves in a different direction, he acts contrary to the wish of the global community and violates, as it were, generally accepted norms, even if they are not obligatory. These trends are very important. So there is a certain value in this and it is quite significant. Remark: What about the ability to compete? Vladimir Putin: We are interested in this. In fact, Russia is interested in this – exchanges of technology, innovation and scientific knowledge. Even in the sphere of education. And we do have something to offer here. You know, for example, that we are doing very good work with the Germans near Hamburg, I believe with fast neutrons. You see, it is an absolutely unique project involving unique technology, mostly our own technology, and we are promoting it, in this case on the European market for research purposes and possibly for subsequent use. Actually, we are interested both in offering something and receiving something that we need from our partners. Question: Mr President, going back to cooperation with China, the issue of the Hague Court [of Arbitration] with regard to the South China Sea was present at summit venues, on the sidelines and before it began. US President Barack Obama commented on these territorial disputes even before he arrived for the summit and so did China: Chinese President Xi Jinping commented on it. What is Russia’s position on the issue? I would like to hear your opinion. And of course, the Russian-Chinese drills, Naval Interaction, which will in fact take place in the South China Sea, are of special interest. Vladimir Putin: You know, I’ve developed a very good relationship based on trust with President Xi Jinping. I would say a friendly relationship. However, he has never – I would like to underscore this – he has never asked me to comment on this issue or intervene in any way. Nothing of the kind has ever passed his lips. Nevertheless, of course, we have our own opinion on this. What is it? First of all, we do not interfere. We believe that interference by any power outside the region will only hurt the resolution of these issues. I believe the involvement of any third-party powers from outside the region is detrimental and counterproductive. That’s my first point. Second, as far as the Hague Arbitration Court and its ruling are concerned, we agree with and support China’s position to not recognise the court’s ruling. And I’ll tell you why. It is not a political but a purely legal position. It is that any arbitration proceedings should be initiated by parties to a dispute while a court of arbitration should hear the arguments and positions of the parties to the dispute. As is known, China did not go to the Hague Court of Arbitration and no one there listened to its position. So, how can these rulings possibly be deemed fair? We support China’s position on the issue. As for the drills, they do not affect anybody’s interests but are beneficial for the security of both Russia and China. Question: Mr President, could you expand on the relationship of trust? Did Xi Jinping taste the ice cream? Did he like it? Vladimir Putin: I don’t know. He was very busy, but we gave him the ice cream. When I told him what I had brought, he asked, “Where’s the ice cream?” So we’ve already given it to him. Question: What kind of ice cream? Vladimir Putin: To be honest, I won’t lie to you, I don’t know, but it is tasty. The Chinese in Vladivostok said it was tasty. “We in China love it,” they said. My guys took it and said they had everything, they were ready to deliver it. I said, “Go ahead then, what are you waiting for? Before you eat it yourselves.” Question: A question unrelated to the summit but one that has been discussed the past few days. Following Islam Karimov’s death, there are different theories about what will happen in Uzbekistan. What is your prediction, how will the relationship between Moscow and Tashkent proceed in the near term? Do you have any concerns? Vladimir Putin: I hope that everything done by Mr Karimov to build bilateral relations between Russia and Uzbekistan will be preserved and added to. Islam Karimov did a great deal to establish Uzbekistan as an independent country, and I believe that what he did for his country is not fully appreciated yet. Different moments in Uzbekistan’s modern history can be interpreted in different ways but he managed to maintain stability in the country, he maintained steady progress. There will be new people who will decide what is to be done next. I really hope they will be able to maintain that stability I mentioned. For a nation like Uzbekistan it is crucial, it is necessary simply for self-preservation and for steady development in the future. And we, for our part, will respond in kind. We shall do everything to keep things moving forward. I should tell you, in view of our very good personal relationship throughout all the years we knew each other and worked together, especially in the past few years, that Islam Karimov (I can probably reveal something of his human side, so to speak) was very kind to me, we had a good relationship. He was older than me, as you know, and he always addressed me informally by my first name when we were alone. I believe this is a huge loss for Uzbekistan, and in general it’s terrible when a person passes. And I think I will definitely go there tomorrow to honour his memory. Thank you very much.