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Question: What was the outcome of the meeting with Kim Jong II? Did you discuss energy matters?
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: The meeting left me with a very positive impression. It was frank, substantive, and covered a broad range of issues. We discussed bilateral and multilateral issues, and regional security issues too, including, of course, the Korean nuclear programme and denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. In short, we went over all of the main issues on our agenda. Our guest expressed great thanks for this chance to visit the Russian Federation, see the Bureya Hydroelectric Power Station, which he had long since wanted to visit, and discuss all the different matters with us.
“We instructed our agencies to set up a special commission to determine the specific parameters for bilateral cooperation on gas transit through the DPRK, and on bringing the Republic of Korea into this project too. Let’s hope that a good project comes out of it.”
As far as gas sector cooperation is concerned, we do have results. We have instructed our agencies to set up a special commission to determine the specific parameters for bilateral cooperation on gas transit through the DPRK, and on bringing the Republic of Korea into this project too, given that the main consumers are in South Korea. I understand that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is interested in carrying out this kind of trilateral project with the Russian Federation and South Korea. The technical work will get underway now. A delegation from Gazprom, headed by the deputy chairman of the board, visited North Korea recently, and I gave the instruction yesterday to Chairman of the Board [Alexei] Miller to work closely on this matter. Let’s hope that a good project comes out of it.
Total gas transported every year would be up to 10 billion cubic metres, and if the demand is there, we would be ready to expand capacity and deliver more. The pipeline itself is more than 1,100 kilometres long, with the main part – 700 kilometres – crossing DPRK territory. We went through all the details today. This is a very important project. The situation on the Korean Peninsula is still tense, and it is thus very important to start drawing these plans for future cooperation.
Question: Mr President, coming back to the international agenda, how is Russia looking to build relations with Tripoli now after the news that the rebels have taken control, Gadhafi has fled, and many countries have already recognised the interim government?
Dmitry Medvedev: Russia has refrained from taking any hasty steps. We are following the events, and our basic position is full compliance with the two United Nations Security Council resolutions – resolutions 1970 and 1973. We think that peace in Libya will be possible only if these resolutions are observed. That is the first point.
“We want to see Libya remain as a united, sovereign and independent country that builds friendly relations with other states.”
Second, we hope that the Libyans manage to come to an agreement among themselves. Libya is a very complex country made up of a large number of different tribes and clans, and the fact that Gadhafi was able to maintain a certain balance between them gave the country the opportunity to develop as a united whole.
I do not know what the future will bring. If the rebels have the strength of will and the possibility to unite the country on a new democratic basis, we will certainly be ready to look at establishing relations with them in accordance. But for now, the situation remains essentially one of dual power in the country, and despite the rebels’ latest successes in their offensive on Tripoli, Gadhafi and his supporters still have some influence and military potential. Our hope is that the conflict will end as soon as possible, and the two sides will sit down at the negotiating table and reach an agreement on Libya’s future. I say once again too that we want to see Libya remain as a united, sovereign and independent country that builds friendly relations with other states.
Question: Mr President, I have another foreign policy question. You met recently with the leaders of Ukraine and Belarus. Russia has had ups and downs in its relations with both of these countries at various moments. We heard various comments after these meetings, including some rather sombre remarks linked in part to the absence of details following these talks. Could you tell us what you actually discussed at these meetings and what agreements were reached, or not reached?
Dmitry Medvedev: These are our close partners and we meet regularly. I had a meeting with President of Ukraine [Viktor] Yanukovych. It was a normal working meeting that looked at preparations for the Interstate Commission’s summit meeting that will take place in autumn. The agenda was no secret, and I announced it at the start of the meeting. It covers all of the subjects that we and our Ukrainian partners think important. This includes developing bilateral economic cooperation and integration, including the possibility of Ukraine joining the Customs Union, and gas sector cooperation, which involves some very complicated issues. I can tell you that we discussed all of these matters frankly and directly, and in detail. The result was that our partners decided they need to take some time out now to reflect on the current situation.
“The Customs Union is a higher form of integration, and we really would like to see Ukraine join it as a large European country.”
The only point I want to stress is that the Customs Union is a higher form of integration, and we really would like to see Ukraine join it as a large European country with which we have such friendly and fraternal ties. But we cannot agree to Ukraine joining under some kind of formula of a 3+1 type, taking the line of signing 20 documents, say, but not 30. Our position is that if they join, they must do so wholeheartedly, signing at all stages and becoming full-fledged members of the Customs Union with all of the ensuing advantages and obligations. They can choose a different path, but this would also have its consequences as far as conditions for developing our relations are concerned, and in a number of cases we would have to apply different customs rules to Ukraine. Our Ukrainian partners understand this.
As for the gas issue, this is a complicated matter. In a way it is all straightforward, in the sense that we have an agreement in force, and as the well-known Latin maxim has it, agreements must be kept. This agreement must therefore be respected. The two sides negotiated and agreed to its terms. As for the future, we are ready to look at various options, but I want to say frankly that Ukraine should give us reason to be interested in this kind of future cooperation. If this happens, we could start discussing various conditions for our work.
What kinds of conditions? They would be similar to those that we have agreed on with Belarus. True, our Ukrainian colleagues immediately pushed this offer aside, saying, ‘You know, this does not satisfy us’, but I think there is no need for haste. We had our problems with Belarus too, big problems, and in gas sector cooperation too, but we managed to reach a normal level of mutual understanding in the end. Belarus is a member of the Customs Union, and we have reached an agreement on Russia’s acquisition of almost 100 percent of Beltransgaz. This creates new conditions. As our Government announced, we will therefore apply what has been called an integration discount in our dealings with Belarus, and I think that we should take this same approach with our Ukrainian friends too.
The talks with President [Alexander] Lukashenko were also very open, constructive and useful. We discussed bilateral issues, and also looked in quite some detail at development of relations within the CSTO. During the summit in Kazakhstan, we examined a number of very interesting ideas on which I hope we can reach final agreement during the official annual summit that will take place in Moscow. These ideas are about having the CSTO member countries arrive at a more consolidated and clear position in order to be able to make progress on all the different issues, following a common line, and helping each other in the event of difficulties.