Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me sincere pleasure to meet once again with a great friend of Russia, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. I think that our talks here in Sochi have been exceptionally useful and have given us the opportunity to discuss a wide range of bilateral questions and current regional and international issues in an informal setting.

First of all, we made a detailed and thorough analysis of the prospects for the political dialogue between our two countries, our trade and economic relations, international cooperation and also our humanitarian ties. We were pleased to note that trade between our two countries is growing steadily. It increased by 55 percent over the first half of this year and came to a total of $10.6 billion.

The objectives we have now set on the agenda include improving the structure of Russia’s exports to Italy, increasing the flow of Italian investment into the Russian economy and facilitating Russian investment in Italy. Initiatives aimed at developing direct contacts between Russian and Italian business circles are of great importance in this context.

In this respect, we welcome the Italian government’s decision to hold a Year of Italy in Russia in 2005-2006. I would like to add that for the first time in 30 years, a national exhibition of Russian manufacturers, “Russian-Italian Trade and Economic Cooperation: Reality and Prospects” took place in Rome this June. We emphasised the importance of creating industrial districts in Russia making use of the Italian experience. I would remind you that it was Mr Berlusconi who put forward this initiative here in Sochi in 2002.

We plan to expand our cooperation in the high-technology sectors and we talked about this in depth today. We are looking at working above all in areas such as the aerospace and telecommunications sectors. We already have good experience of working together in these areas and we have significant joint projects to pursue.

The recent MAKS-2005 Aerospace Salon provides one example of the excellent opportunities for our partnership in this area. The pilots of Italy’s Frecce Tricolori demonstrated their exceptional skill during the show. I can tell you that I met recently with Russian specialists, with Russian pilots, and they expressed great admiration for their Italian colleagues’ professionalism and skill. But what is also important is that the air salon resulted in several important agreements being signed between Russian and Italian companies on activating cooperation in the aircraft-manufacturing sector.

The fuel and energy sector remains a priority area for us, both with regards to developing joint projects at bilateral level and working together on specific programmes at the general European level.

It is pleasing to see that our humanitarian ties are developing actively. The Russian-Italian Forum for Civil Society Dialogue has begun its work. Mr Berlusconi and I agree that this forum has great potential for developing direct contacts and facilitating the implementation of joint initiatives by public organisations, scientists and cultural and education representatives in both our countries.

I would like to note the great success of the exhibition, “Russia-Italy: through the centuries.” The exhibition was held in 2004-2005 in both Rome and in Moscow and had more than half-a-million visitors. I am certain that humanitarian cooperation is particularly significant and essential for our two countries with their rich cultural, scientific and education potential. My colleague and I will continue to provide all the necessary help and support to significant cultural events and activities.

We gave a lot of attention during our talks to foreign-policy cooperation between Russia and Italy. One of the principle subjects we discussed was the active fight against international terrorism. On the eve of the anniversary of the tragedy in Beslan, I would like to once again express our particular gratitude to Italy’s people and leadership for their moral support and concrete help in overcoming the consequences of this truly horrific crime.

Mr Berlusconi and I agree that the international community should adopt a united and firm position in the face of international terrorism, a position that rejects double standards and ambiguous interpretation. Our countries are both firmly committed to reinforcing the anti-terrorist activities of the United Nations, in particular through the Security Council’s Counter-terrorism Committee.

We discussed ways forward for developing Russia’s strategic cooperation with the European Union and with NATO. We hope that Italy will continue to provide substantial help to Russia in developing its partnership relations with these organisations. We had a fruitful exchange of views on current international issues, including the situation in Iraq, the state of affairs in the Middle East and other issues. We also discussed a number of regional matters, including preparations for the 2005 Summit in New York. Also, I intend to speak with and seek the advice of the Italian Prime Minister during our further discussions later today and tomorrow morning on Russia’s presidency of the G-8 in 2006.

In conclusion, I would like to stress once again that Russia places great importance on its positive partnership with Italy and we highly value the Italian prime minister, Mr Berlusconi’s constructive commitment to its consistent and dynamic development.

Thank you for your attention.