Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen,
With your permission I would like to brief you on the results of the work done up to now.
First of all, I would like, from the bottom of my heart, to welcome the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heidar Aliyev.
This is the third summit between Russia and Azerbaijan this year. I would like to remind you that the President of Azerbaijan was in Moscow on a state visit in January this year, and we had a working meeting in St. Petersburg on June 9.
Such activity highlights the mutual desire of our countries to strengthen traditional friendship and all-round cooperation. The main item on the agenda of this summit was the signing of the agreement between Russia and Azerbaijan on the demarcation of contiguous sections of the Caspian Sea bed. The decision was preceded by intensive work. We have had many arguments and there has been intensive work on both sides, but I would like to stress that it was an effort of interested partners and I am very glad, I am very satisfied that our joint work has been crowned with such a positive result. Considering the earlier agreements signed between Russia and Kazakhstan and between Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan it can safely be said that from now on the interaction between our three countries in developing the mineral resources on the seabed of the Central and Northern Caspian has a solid international legal basis.
I am convinced that the application of the “divide the seabed, but not the water” formula and the step-by-step approach will eventually result in a mutually beneficial solution to the problem of the status of the Caspian that takes into account – and I want to stress it – the interests of all the Caspian states.
An intergovernmental agreement on mutual recognition of education certificates has been signed. I would like to stress the significance of that document for further development of humanitarian, scientific and cultural links between our two countries. Simultaneously an intergovernmental agreement has been signed to preserve the core activities of the enterprises and organisations involved in military production, and an interdepartmental agreement on economic and scientific-technical cooperation. That is added proof that our relations are being deepened in all areas and are truly diversified.
The current visit by the President of Azerbaijan practically coincides with the anniversary of the tragic events in America which marked the start of the consolidation of the efforts of the world community in fighting international terrorism. Russia has been confronting that evil for many years. Azerbaijan, led by its president, has supported our vigorous actions from the beginning. Heidar Aliyev has noted more than once that the terrorist threat ignores national borders and can spread rapidly, like a dangerous disease. We have accumulated extensive practical experience of cooperation between our law enforcement agencies and special services and we will continue vigorous interaction in this field. And I would like to remind you of the active stand taken by the President of Azerbaijan on the issue and to thank him for it. We remember that Azerbaijan was the first country which, in spite of everything, extradited to us the criminals who were later put on trial.
We also touched upon issues of bilateral partnership, including trade and economics. We are one in stressing the need for the bilateral intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation to play a bigger role. Some topical international problems have also been discussed.
In conclusion I would like to say that the talks have been constructive and useful. They are not yet over. Tonight we will have a chance to discuss our interaction in detail, with all the nuances, with Heidar Aliyev in an informal and relaxed atmosphere. I am convinced that the spirit of great trust that has lately marked the relations between our countries will help us resolve all the issues that have up until now been considered complicated and intractable. In fact, as the President of Azerbaijan said today, there are practically no such issues left between our countries. The current visit of the President of Azerbaijan to Russia will undoubtedly mark another milestone in the building of inter-state relations. Thank you.
Question: How do you assess the status of economic cooperation between Azerbaijan and Russia? Are you happy with its scope?
Vladimir Putin: As regards the scope of cooperation, of course, we are not satisfied either with the scope or the quality of cooperation. I am absolutely convinced that the results could have been much better in terms of the range of goods in mutual trade, the amount of investments and other areas of activity. Nevertheless, in the early months of this year we have seen a significant growth in trade. But more importantly, there are some long-term projects. I refer not only to the cooperation in the energy field, although it is very important. You know that last year 2.3 million tons of oil from Azerbaijan was pumped through Russian territory, this year the figure is 2.5 million tons. We are discussing the volumes for 2003. I have suggested today concluding such an agreement for the long term and apparently the Azerbaijani side is interested. Our Azerbaijani colleagues went along with that suggestion on the understanding that in exchange Russia would increase its commitments to supply natural gas to Azerbaijan. Oddly enough, Azerbaijan seems to be well off as regards energy resources, yet it needs gas to be part of its energy mix, and we are ready to cooperate and to transport more and more gas via our pipelines, gas that Azerbaijan needs today and will need even more of as its economy grows.
We have discussed the power industry and other areas of interaction. Today we signed an agreement that would elevate our industrial cooperation to a higher level.
At the same time, I would like to draw your attention to the document on education that has been signed today. I am convinced that mutual recognition of diplomas will bring about a dramatic improvement in our cooperation in the sphere of economics. This is what it is all about.
We have discussed interaction in the cultural field as well. As far as I know, the scale of the study of the Russian language in Azerbaijan has not diminished. It is one of the few republics which has not been scaling down the teaching of Russian, and I am aware that the republic’s leadership is exerting efforts to maintain the current level. We consider that important, too.
This year saw Russian Culture Days in Azerbaijan. The President personally inaugurated the event and met with Russian cultural figures. All that creates a favourable atmosphere for the development of economic ties. We find that highly satisfactory.