Joint Press Conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Excerpts)

January 16, 2006

PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN: Dear ladies and gentlemen! Madam the Federal Chancellor!

First and foremost I would like to sincerely welcome Madam Merkel who is visiting Moscow for the first time as Federal Chancellor of the Republic of Germany.

We had productive, frank and very open talks. They proved that we both aspire to see the Russian-German partnership continue to develop in a steady way. We intend to strengthen and expand both our bilateral cooperation and cooperation in a multilateral format in every possible way. This means foreign policy, the economy and relations in the cultural and educational spheres. We agreed that interstate consultations between our countries should continue and the next round of talks will take place this April in Tomsk.

We are satisfied with our trade and economic ties at the moment; trade amounted to thirty two billion dollars in 2005 and this is a good benchmark for our cooperation in the sphere of the economy.

We talked about the need to expand our cooperation in the economy, including in the high-tech sector, the energy sector and in major investment projects.

Undoubtedly, all this work will help form the common economic space in Europe on the basis of the appropriate Russia-EU Road Map.

Today's talks confirmed the affinity of our positions on key international issues. We discussed our cooperation within the G8 in detail. I hope that the themes that we are putting forward for discussion at the G8 will be topical and allow us to solve many problems that face humanity. I am referring to energy security, education and the struggle against epidemics.

We also discussed a great deal of regional problems including European and Middle Eastern ones. Certainly, we discussed the Iranian nuclear programme in quite a bit of detail.

I wish to thank the whole German delegation and Madam Federal Chancellor for their openness and constructive approach to the issues we discussed.

We developed a whole programme for cooperation that includes possible visits to the Federal Republic of Germany. I want to thank Madam Federal Chancellor for the invitation.

FEDERAL CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY ANGELA MERKEL (translation from German through Russian): Thank you very much. I also wish to thank you on behalf of my delegation for the warm reception during our first trip to Moscow, our first visit to Moscow and our first relations after my inauguration as Federal Chancellor.

We discussed a wide range of issues with the President of the Russian Federation and I am convinced that we have the possibility of expanding our strategic partnership, putting it on a wider base and using it more intensively.

Alongside the intergovernmental consultations that will take place in Tomsk in April 2006 and for which we shall carefully prepare, I invited the President to an international aerospace exhibition in Berlin and also to continue the St Petersburg dialogue which will take place this autumn in Dresden. I think the celebrations linked to Dresden's 800 th anniversary will create a good context for the meeting.

We talked about how we have relations on many different levels and in a great deal of areas. We spoke about energy politics in a lot of detail, including the Northern European Gas Pipeline. It was once again very obvious that this project is not being carried out against anyone, but is a very important strategic project for Europe and also for Germany. And we are very interested in making sure that trade, which has developed very positively over the last few years, develops in the same way in the future. And I consider that in the future it is necessary that small German businesses participate in trade between our countries.

I consider that we can still expand our cooperation in areas such as youth exchanges and education, and this is also one of the Russian government's priorities. I think that we will have the opportunity to discuss these issues in more detail in Tomsk.

We also discussed certain issues on which we do not share the same opinion from the outset. For example, we discussed the situation in Chechnya and in the northern Caucasus. I emphasized that I will make bigger efforts so that the programmes the European Union proposed lead to positive developments in this region, and I spoke about this very clearly. We discussed this very openly and in detail.

We also discussed a theme that Mr President has already spoken about, the question of Iran. We agreed that we shall closely coordinate our next steps.

I consider that we had a good and important first meeting. And this first meeting will be followed by many others in 2006, and I think that we are going to have an intensive dialogue which corresponds to the level of our strategic partnership.

QUESTION: A question for the Federal Chancellor: did you discuss the law on non-governmental organizations? If I am not mistaken, this draft bill was criticised by the public and is being looked at by the Russian president but has not yet been signed.

And a question to the Russian president: what degree of pressure are you willing to put on Iran?

. . .

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN:

. . .

As regards Iran, today we talked about this problem in great detail. And the positions of Russia, the Federal Republic of Germany, our European partners and the United States on the Iranian problem are very close.

As you know, one of the main problems is enriching uranium. We offered our Iranian partners the possibility of creating a joint venture for enriching uranium on the territory of the Russian Federation.

We hear different opinions from our Iranian partners on this problem. For example, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said recently that Iran does not exclude implementing our proposal.

In any case it is necessary to work very carefully concerning Iranian nuclear power and not make any hasty, erroneous steps. You know that today our colleagues, the deputy ministers of foreign affairs, are discussing this theme. In any case the Russian Federation will continue cooperating with European and American partners in the future to find the solution to this problem.

. . .

QUESTION: I would like to return to the question that was asked about the law on non-governmental organizations. My question is to both Madam Federal Chancellor and to you, Mr President. This law is also an indicator of the general level of democratic development. Did you discuss this aspect and if so in what way? Mr President, what is your reaction to this?

And a second question: if negotiations on the Iranian nuclear programme should fail, and today the head of the IAEA said that his patience will soon run out, can you imagine any variants involving the use of force?

. . .

VLADIMIR PUTIN:

. . .

Finally, regarding Iran. I already said that we must tread very carefully on this issue and for this reason I shall not permit myself to make any premature statements and I will not allow the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take any careless steps. We shall work further with our European and American partners.

. . .