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Q&A Following State Council Of Russia And Belarus


December 14, 2007,
Minsk

Press Statements and Answers to Journalists' Questions Following the Session of the Supreme State Council of the Union State of Russia and Belarus

PRESIDENT OF BELARUS ALEKSANDR LUKASHENKO: Dear comrades!

Two events have taken place: the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin's official visit to our country has come to an end. Once again, I want to publicly emphasize the impact and the importance of this visit. This visit really will remain part of the history of our relations. And the second event is the session of the Supreme State Council of the Union State, which also affects relations between our countries.

You are aware that there were 12 issues on the agenda, a continuation of the problems that we examined during the official visit. Appropriate decisions have been taken on absolutely all issues that were on the Supreme State Council's agenda.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: For my part, I wish to thank the President for the invitation to make an official visit to Belarus, and for the working conditions that were present both in the bilateral format, and also within the Supreme State Council of the Union State.

Indeed, today we managed to accomplish a great deal both at the bilateral level and with regards to building a union state. I would add that to ensure a smooth transition in Russian-Belarusian cooperation in the energy sector according to world market principles, and in light of both parties' obligations contained in their agreements and contracts, Russia has decided to offer Belarus credit worth 1.5 billion dollars

We made decisions relating to the Union State's budget and discussed the problems the executive authorities face as they implement earlier agreements and accords. We talked about coordinating our work in foreign policy and in defense. I am satisfied with the results of our work and, once again, want to thank our Belarusian friends for organizing it.

QUESTION: Vladimir Vladimirovich, as we know, the prices of the gas that Russia receives from Turkmenistan have gone up. Does this mean that the price of gas that Gazprom delivers to Belarus will also go up?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: No. The prices for our Belarusian partners will not be raised. Gazprom will fully implement all the commitments it took on in the contracts it signed last year.

QUESTION: I have a question for both presidents. The highest state authorities in Russia will change in the near future. I am referring to the elections. And in connection with this, what would you, Aleksandr Grigorevich, and you, Vladimir Vladimirovich, expect with regards to relations within the Union? (I am referring to politics, economics and, for example, equal rights for citizens.)

ALEKSANDR LUKASHENKO: Dear friends! One answer to this is simply to reply: let's wait and see. But in order to respond properly to your question, we must look to recent history.

I just congratulated Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin on the victory of his party in the elections. We know the outcome of the vote for the State Duma. And it is not hard to predict (I certainly hope I'm right) the result of the upcoming presidential election, given the level of confidence in the current President, and support for the candidate nominated to be the new President of the Russian Federation.

As a result of this I am absolutely convinced that, whoever is in power in the Russian Federation, our relations will continue unchanged because they are of a strategic nature and nobody can change that. I can assure the Russian side on my own behalf and on behalf of the Belarusian people, that Russia -- as I often say, our Russia -- will always remain a priority in our relations compared to other nations, when we examine all the possibilities.

Therefore I am absolutely confident that we will continue to move forward. At times it will be difficult, at times complicated. As the President of Russia has said, we represent different countries, but basically we face similar issues, although we may have different ways of looking at certain problems. Nevertheless, we have always been able to find solutions for the most complicated and difficult problems and issues. Therefore I am absolutely convinced that this approach will continue in the future, no matter how Russia's domestic political situation develops, because relations between two brotherly peoples are more important than mere political dispositions.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I want to just reiterate what my colleague has said. Relations between Russia and Belarus are indeed both fundamental and genuinely strategic. They are important, not because one of the leaders of our states wants them to be, but rather because the peoples of Russia and Belarus have for centuries enjoyed very close relations at the level of their shared humanity, especially at the personal level between the citizens of our countries.

There is probably no country to which Russians feel closer than to Belarus. Our economies are very tightly linked. Just today we were saying that in the last year our trade has increased by 25 per cent. It has now reached a new record: 24 billion. This year will be at least 24 billion. And all this is the result, first and foremost, of our extensive cooperation, which continues to grow among enterprises and in entire industries.

Your Russian colleague just asked whether energy prices will be raised beyond the levels fixed in previous contracts. I have already answered: yes, they will go up, but as provided for in previous contracts, despite the fact that Russia itself must pay higher prices for energy, particularly gas, to our partners in Central Asia.

This shows that Russia understands the difficulties faced by the major consumers in Europe, including Belarus, as a result of high world prices for energy. And we will do everything possible to minimize these effects for the Belarusian economy.

I would like to point out that, as per previous agreements between Russia and Belarus, we once again confirm that we will strictly enforce agreements reached earlier concerning contracts for the supply of energy. This confirmation has another, pan-European dimension. Thus we once again confirmed today in our memorandum that we will not only abide by these contracts, but Russia and Belarus will live up to all their commitments concerning the supply of Russian energy to Europe. This means that Russia and Belarus are aware of their responsibility for maintaining an appropriate supply regime for our European partners.

Both sides have made significant contributions to the stabilization of the European energy market. All this indicates that Russia and Belarus are unconditional strategic partners. Whatever processes may occur within the Russian Federation, I can assure you that developing a genuinely close and fraternal strategic relationship with Belarus is an absolute priority for the Russian Federation. And, in this regard, there is a clear national consensus.

ALEKSANDR LUKASHENKO: I want to add to what Vladimir Vladimirovich has said. We have insisted for a very long time that we are committed to providing a stable supply of energy to Western Europe, to Europe rich and poor, to the European Union. The Russian Federation supplies a huge amount of energy, natural gas and oil to Europe via the territory of Belarus. In this way we are making a tremendous contribution to the economic, social and political stability of the European continent and the European Union.

I want to say in this regard that, in making this contribution to the stability of Europe, we expect an appropriate response on Europe's part in relation to our countries. We would very much like Europe to understand the challenges facing the two States that have made the commitments that the President of the Russian Federation just mentioned.

ENDS

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