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Press Statements following Russian-Bolivian Talks

February 16, 2009

The Kremlin, Moscow

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PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, members of the press,

It gives me real pleasure to welcome to Moscow President of the Republic of Bolivia Evo Morales. This is his first visit to our country, and we see this event as marking a new stage in the dialogue between our countries. The Russian Federation sees Bolivia as a very promising partner, a country with which we discuss a broad range of subjects and carry on an intensive political dialogue. 

We are already working quite actively with Bolivia on international issues. I think that Mr Morales’ visit will give us the chance to substantially expand our trade and economic cooperation and our cultural ties. Among the various documents we have just signed, the Joint Declaration is particularly important. It reflects our countries’ common approaches to a wide range of issues on the international agenda, from global security to climate change, and it lays an excellent foundation on which to build up our future relations. 

During our talks today, first one-on-one and then in expanded format, we discussed ways to activate our trade and economic cooperation, because our bilateral trade comes to only a small figure for now - $5 million. This is very little indeed for two countries that actively discuss political matters and share common views on the development of international processes. We therefore made a very detailed analysis of economic issues and new areas for cooperation.

We examined the energy sector as one of the most important areas in which we can work together, an area in which we could make a real breakthrough in our cooperation. The idea is for Russia to help our Bolivian colleagues carry out fossil fuels exploration and build a gas transport system in Bolivia. This has been the subject of large-scale consultations, and the relevant memorandums have been signed with Gazprom, which will now pave the way for practical work to begin. This is not the sort of project that can be completed in a year or two, but is a strategic project with a timeframe running through to 2030.

We also discussed hydroelectricity projects and cooperation in the mining industry. The idea here is that companies could work on reviving earlier interesting bilateral cooperation projects, in particular, modernizing a number of the enterprises built earlier with help from the Soviet Union, and other enterprises that our Bolivian colleagues could propose.

Military-technical cooperation is another important area. We just signed an agreement in this area and we hope that very soon we will begin carrying out the first big contract to deliver Russian helicopters to Bolivia. Of course, the range of goods in this area could be expanded later on, and we are ready to hold talks on this in the future. 

Developing our cooperation on security is also very important. In particular, we have just signed a document on preventing drug trafficking. This is a global threat that is a danger for the entire planet. The Russian Federation and Bolivia both face these problems, unfortunately, and we are ready to work together to fight them.

We want to develop our humanitarian contacts. Over the years of relations with first the Soviet Union and then the Russian Federation, more than 1,500 specialists and professionals from Bolivia have been trained here. I think that Russia is entirely in a position today to continue helping Bolivia to train qualified specialists. Mr Morales raised this issue with me just before, and we will see what we can do to increase the quota for students from Bolivia.  

Consultations on global security and on regional issues are always on the agenda of course. We are ready to increase our cooperation in these areas. I think that the Russian Federation has done quite a lot of late to develop its relations with Latin America in general. I said to my colleague, President Morales, that this is not an opportunist decision and not a desire to compete with anyone, but a conscious choice on our country’s part. We think that this will benefit the Russian Federation and the Latin American countries, which are growing very fast today and are engaged in a search for their own national identities, developing their own political systems, and building up their economies. In this respect, Russia is ready for full-scale cooperation with the Latin American countries, including our friends from Bolivia of course.   

Our position is that we need to build a fairer system of international relations. This system should be based on the priority of international law, equal participation of all countries in resolving global problems, the fundamental role of the United Nations Organization, and regional cooperation. We welcome the cooperation that exists in Latin America and are prepared to make what contribution we can. In any event, we are watching with interest the processes underway in Latin America. I was even lucky enough to be invited by our friends to attend the ALBA [Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas] summit when I was in Venezuela. We are ready to develop these relations with our Bolivian colleagues too.  

I think this visit is a landmark event. This is the first visit ever made by a Bolivian leader to either the Soviet Union or the Russian Federation. I therefore think that this visit will reshape our relations. We are pleased that this visit is taking place and we welcome the President and the entire Bolivian delegation on Russian soil.

Thank you.

PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF BOLIVIA EVO MORALES (as translated from Russian): Thank you very much.

Mr President of Russia, ministers, dear people of Russia,

This is an unprecedented event of historic significance for the peoples of Bolivia and Russia. I have already expressed my admiration and respect, and my thanks for the invitation. 

This is indeed the first time a Bolivian leader has made an official visit to Russia. Bolivia is a small country. Our mother Earth gave us abundant wealth, but our people live in poverty nonetheless. We are trying to develop our country and carrying out far-reaching democratic reforms. Thanks to the Bolivian people’s will, we have been able to amend our constitution, which sets out the guarantees for a unitary state with autonomous regions. But at the same time, the invitation you have made, Mr President, gives us great hopes and renewed strength to continue the transformations we are carrying out in Bolivia at the moment.

On behalf of the Bolivian people, I want to thank you for your friendly spirit and for making scholarships available to our students: some of those who studied here have become professionals now and take part in my Government’s work. 

Furthermore, military dictatorships in our country led to many Bolivians finding refuge in Russia. They are also very grateful to you. I want to thank you on behalf of Bolivian students and on behalf of the Bolivian refugees. Russia’s efforts have not been in vain. I thank you once again.

Bolivia, and especially its national government, knows that Russia is a world power, and we value Russia’s role in building a multi-polar world that will contribute to disarmament and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and prevent the military use of outer space. We support the pacifist intentions of Russia, its Government and people.

We welcome the bilateral agreements that we signed today, and the Joint Declaration, which provides for military-technical cooperation, investment cooperation, work together in the energy sector and the mining industry, and also provides for technology transfers that will help Bolivian society to develop. These issues are very important for my country at this moment when we are starting to carry out far-reaching reforms with the Bolivian people’s participation.

I also want to thank you for your willingness to cooperate in fighting drug trafficking. The government and President of Bolivia have a duty to fulfil the mission of eradicating the drugs-related crime that has had such huge costs for the whole world. The presence of Russia with its technical and logistical means is very important for us, and important for this mission that all the presidents of all the world’s countries must fulfil, namely the fight against drug crime.

Furthermore, Mr President, I want to thank you on behalf of all of South America. Russia’s return to our region, Russia’s presence in our region, is extremely important, and will help to strengthen the Union of South American Nations, and ALBA – the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. On behalf of these organisations I would also like to greet Russia. We just recently witnessed the victory of one of our good friends in the referendum held in Venezuela. We are often accused of dictatorship, but there is no dictatorship in Latin America. What we are doing is carrying out deep-reaching changes, peaceful changes, and holding referendums. We are trying to guarantee greater equality and justice for our peoples. 

I would like to say a personal thanks to you, Mr President, and to the Russian people for this wonderful reception. I never could have imagined that I, who others call a drug dealer and terrorist, would be received by such a great country as Russia. I think that our countries share much in common when it comes to fighting racism and fascism, and this is very important. This first visit to your country therefore inspires us to continue our reforms in Bolivia and gives hope to the people of Bolivia and the peoples of Latin America in general. I will never forget the hospitality, generosity and kindness of Russia’s President, government and people. I am really deeply impressed. I never even dreamed of this, and nor did the poorest groups of our society, the indigenous people, the workers, mixed-race and Creole people who fought for their freedom. They never thought that their dreams would come true. We did not imagine that we would be received here in Russia. We really do have deep respect and sincere feelings for you. Thank you very much for your invitation and for this visit.  

As I already said, I thought that an Amerindian would not be deemed worthy of such a reception in Russia. I am very grateful to you for the reception you have given me. It is the start of excellent relations, relations of trust, relations that mutually complement each other between our two governments and two presidents in the service of our people and of all of humanity.  

I also welcome your contribution to environmental protection. Unfortunately, climate change is melting the snow cover in our mountains. Yesterday evening, when I flew in, I saw such a big snowfall and I was very envious. I would like to see such snow in our mountains so as to replenish our snow cover once more. International efforts in this respect are very important not just for our country but for everyone on the planet.

I express my admiration and respect for Russia and its efforts to build new relations that will be fairer and at the same time protect our sovereignty.

Mr President, thank you once again. I will never forget this warm welcome. Thank you very much.


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