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Press Conference on G8 Summit with Konstantin Kosachev, chair of the State Duma Committeefor Foreign Affrairs


18 July 2006

Federal News Service

Moderator: Good day, ladies and gentlemen. We have a press conference today with Konstantin Kosachev, who was an eye witness of the summit which has certainly had big repercussions. First I would like to ask Mr. Kosachev to say a few words about this event.

Kosachev: Thank you, those who are here and those who are taking part in this meeting via the Internet. First of all, I would like to explain why I was in St. Petersburg during the summit. It wasn't just my curiosity, even though every professional dealing with international affairs certainly cannot neglect such an event of global significance. But my visit to St. Petersburg was in connection with the fact that the G8 activities also have a parliamentary measurement. For the fifth year running, a meeting of the speakers of parliament has been held in the G8 framework, and this year Russia which holds the G8 presidency will hold such a meeting of speakers, also in Russia, also in St. Petersburg. The meeting will be held from September 15 through 17, and Boris Gryzlov, the State Duma speaker and United Russia leader, will chair the meeting. I am the head of the organizing committee, and it was very important for me to be in St. Petersburg during the G8 summit to see how this unprecedented event was organized.

Now, to the summit proper. Naturally, I see it as a major diplomatic and political success of Russia, and as far as I understand from my meetings, this opinion was prevalent in Strelna, in St. Petersburg among politicians, NGO representatives. They agreed that Russia's G8 presidency was a leap forward in the development of multilateral dialogue of the world's leaders. In my opinion, it was the success of the summit that it was held strictly in line with the agenda defined in advance. This was not just respect for the organizers. This was the recognition of the fact that really important issues, important for the whole world, rather than for particular countries, were chosen for the agenda. All three parts of debates: first, debates on the priorities of Russia's presidency, second, exchanges of opinions on pressing issues in the world and, third, debates on issues of concern to many politicians and civil society, such as democracy, human rights, freedom of the press, and many other issues which many expected to lead the summit in an unpredictable direction -- those issues were also discussed, were also given due attention. No one prevented anyone from voicing one's views. No one tried to avoid unpleasant topics. But, I repeat, it is important that all those issues, even though they are very significant, have not led the participants away from the initially set agenda, because the issue of energy security, universalization of the global education system, combating cross border infectious diseases -- all those issues are not less important, and I am convinced that they are more important from the point of view of the future of the humankind.

The summit meeting yielded substantial results. Suffice it to say that 13 general documents were adopted plus a statement by the president on the results of the summit, summing up those documents.

I have to say that those texts are diverse, but when they were prepared on a systemic basis, without haste, the texts are very substantive.

Take the main document of the summit, the Statement on the Global Energy Security. It is a document of more than ten pages, with more than 50 concrete points. It is not just a statement that energy security is an issue that deserves special attention. It is a set of very concrete agreements on the issue. This is also true about other texts adopted by the participants.

So, this is what I wanted to say as introductory remarks and I will be glad to answer questions.

Q: Debates on what particular topics were particularly tense and in what spheres a breakthrough was accomplished?

Kosachev: Naturally, debates were particularly heated on issues which emerged at the last moment. Clearly, the G8 is not just a meeting of the leaders. It is always painstaking preparatory work at the level of relevant ministers. In that framework of preparations for the summit, several meetings of the energy ministers, finance ministers, education ministers, health ministers, and of course foreign ministers were held as part of the Russian chairmanship. The so-called "routine" situations were agreed upon in general in advance and caused no big debates.

The summit coincided with a serious aggravation of the situation in the Middle East, on the border between Israel and Lebanon, and this topic was of course discussed very intensively, and I am sure, quite productively. There were of course heated debates on other, shall I say, conflict situations in the world, I mean first of all the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs, where the positions of the G8 states coincide strategically but have certain tactical nuances.

There was a hard discussion on the development of world trade, and the discussion was held in an enlarged format with the leaders of several other countries that seek G8 membership -- as you know these are China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico -- as well as the leaders and representatives of international organizations invited to the summit, such as the World Bank, the European Union, the IAEA, the World Health Organization, and certainly the WTO, as well as some others.

These are perhaps the issues that caused heated debates. But I want to emphasize that the sides did not stop their discussions on any of these issues on account that they simply cannot come to agreement. There were no such topics at the summit.

Q: Will there be any follow up to the decisions adopted at the summit, and will they provide the basis for cooperation between the club members or will they remain intensions and projects?

Kosachev: What makes the G8 special is that this is an informal association that does not envision binding decisions. And this is what differs the G8 from traditional interstate communication, be it bilateral agreements, regional organizations or such a global organization as the UN. In all these cases of traditional inter- state communication, there may be some gentleman's agreements or binding decisions. The G8 summits do not adopt binding decisions.

Their purpose is not to work out such decisions but to better understand the specific interests of the participants, their specific goals and thus avoid misunderstandings while planning concrete steps.

In my view the G8 is a unique mechanism where unique decisions are made for unique situations. As a rule, the summits result in concrete instructions to relevant governments and ministries to continuing working in the same or some other format to prepare concrete practical decisions. I think this is what is good about the G8 and what makes it so productive. For example, there is no doubt that all foreign ministers from the member states received concrete instructions with regard to the Middle East situation, the Israeli- Lebanese crisis. These instructions will lead to relevant meetings at other levels, to the harmonization of positions at the UN Security Council, within the Middle East Quartet and other structures and eventually lead to solutions to the Middle East conflict. In this respect the St. Petersburg summit is as productive as all the previous ones.

Q: Vladimir Putin told journalists ahead of the summit that if the question of our country's accession to the WTO is solved, Russia will stop complying with some of the WTO conditions. What conditions are these? And is this still relevant today?

Kosachev: Russia's membership in the WTO has never been a goal in itself for Russia. This is not a situation where we feel uncomfortable being outside a structure that incorporates most of the countries in the world. There are different economies, there are different trade and economic interests, and Russia's situation in this regard differs considerably from the situation of many other countries because our foreign economic interests, at least at this point, and I am saying this with a certain degree of regret, lie primarily in the sphere of energy trade. As we know, WTO regulations do not apply to energy resources.

As for trade in other commodities, Russia, as we know, cannot boast for the time being of a high degree of competitiveness of its products. This is why accession to WTO to us is more or a question of foreign goods and services penetrating our market in a more liberal format than for Russian goods and services winning new positions in the world markets. Let me say this once again, this is one of the goals that Russia certainly pursues while seeking WTO membership. Sooner or later Russian goods and services will become absolutely competitive, and we must create certain conditions for that already now. But I want to emphasize that what makes the current situation specific is that Russia is not running against the time in terms of accession to the WTO. We will join this organization at such time and on such terms that will benefit Russia.

When Russia and the US did not reach an agreement before the summit, on the completion of the talks on Russia's accession to the WTO, strange as it may seem, it became good news to me because I took it as a confirmation of the fact that the Russian negotiators were working very seriously and substantively and were not trying to rush things or report success to their leaders. They are working on substance, seeking to formalize results that will benefit the Russian economy. If these results are formalized in six months or in a year, what is important is that they will meet our interests rather than the interests of our partners.

And the last thing, about Russia's compliance with voluntarily assumed obligations. Yes, Russia acts in the modern world economy and the modern world in an absolutely civilized manner, just as reliable partners do. By and large our commitments. There is no doubt that Russia behaves in an absolutely civilized manner in the world economy, in the modern world, the way it should be with reliable partners. On the whole, our course is in line with the norms approved by WTO. As an example, I will mention such a widespread norm as impermissibility of excessive subsidizing of exports, for example, exports of agricultural produce. But this is not only about agriculture.

Really, Russia now subsidizes exports on a scale comparable with the scale of support of exports by our key trade and economic partners. It cannot be ruled out that if the talks on Russia's WTO accession lead to no result -- even though I find that this is improbable -- it cannot be ruled out that in case of negative results, Russia will act differently. This is a hypothetical opportunity.

I have the impression that talks with the United States on Russia's WTO accession will be completed this year. Really, there are not too many points to resolve. By the way, they mostly deal with agriculture. So, Russia will join the WTO, it will become reality next year without any dramatic steps by the Russian side.

Q: What is the position of Russia and United Russia, in particular, on hostilities between Israel and Lebanon?

Kosachev: WE all realize perfectly well what is meant. Let me start with the second part on United Russia. I met with Boris Gryzlov yesterday to discuss it. As chair of the International Affairs Committee and chair of United Russia's commission on relations with other parties, I was instructed by Boris Gryzlov to invigorate contacts between parties and parliaments of Russia, on the one hand, and Israeli and Lebanese organizations, on the other, to try to encourage the parties to the conflict to establish direct contacts.

I have started acting in line with the instructions. In particular, today I have sent written appeals to my colleagues, in particular, the chair of the Israeli Knesset's committee for foreign affairs and defense Tzachi Hanegbi and chair of the Commission for Foreign Affairs and Migration of the Lebanese National Assembly Abdel Latif Zein, as well as other influential politicians in Israel and Lebanon, with whom we have established direct contacts, to convey our view of the situation. It is that confrontation in the Middle East has crossed a very dangerous line, which may lead to numerous casualties among the civilian population.

We have stated that the cause of this aggravation was provocations by radical forces having chosen terror as a means for attaining their political goals. But we have stated also that retaliatory shelling of peaceful settlements, destruction of civilian infrastructure are not an adequate response. It cannot stop radicals. On the contrary, it will encourage them to act and bring new recruits into terrorist activities.

We are deeply convinced that terrorism should be suppressed by most resolute means and specially trained organizations should deal with terrorism, rather than the armed forces trained to engage in large-scale hostilities. Those large-scale hostilities cannot weaken terrorist organizations or stop their activities. On the contrary, they strengthen positions of those terrorist organizations in certain countries.

In our appeal, we have called on responsible politicians in Israel and Lebanon to establish direct contacts with each other without delay. There are no such contacts at the moment. We strongly rely on that. Second, we have stated if necessary Russian parliament members and Russian politicians -- naturally, I am speaking about United Russia in this case -- are ready to help establish such direct contacts between politicians in those countries.

Moderator: We have received the following question by e-mail: "Why has not a referendum on Russia's WTO accession been held? This concerns the whole population of the country. Before joining that organization, it is necessary to know the opinion of the people.

Opinion polls on the Internet show that a substantial share of the population are opposed to WTO accession.

Kosachev: A good question, but I think that those issues which people really understand, where there is a clear opportunity to make a choice between existing alternatives should be put to a referendum.

With all respect to Russian citizens, let me ay that there are not too many people in Russia who understand WTO problems. I am speaking not just about the whole population. This is also true about Russian politicians. The World Trade Organization is a very complex mechanism, and only experts who deal with those problems day and night can understand it in full measure.

The problem is not whether or not Russian should join the WTO.

The WTO is not a rigid organization with the same membership rules set for all members. The WTO is like a marketplace, where each country that is about to join it engages in bargaining and manages or fails to get beneficial membership terms. One successful example of WTO accession talks in China, which engaged in bargaining on its WTO membership for nearly 17 years. There are several examples of hasty WTO accession, which led to problems. Unfortunately, some of our partners in the CIS were among those countries. In particular, in the second half of the 1990s, Georgia, Moldova and Kyrgyzstan hastily joined the WTO without any special reservations. I have to say that WTO membership has led to big problems for those countries.

We could see how hard Ukraine has tried to join the WTO without delay. It wants to join before Russia becomes a member of that organization. We have lots of testimonies by representatives of Ukrainian business. They say that Ukrainian negotiators have practically lost touch with business and are conducting negotiations by solely administrative methods and make, to use the terminology of the past, voluntaristic decisions by giving up one key position after another, by agreeing to a zero customs rate for the import of aircraft -- one can understand what this will mean for the Ukrainian aircraft industry -- or by reducing import duties for raw sugar to zero. It's clear what kind of consequences Ukrainian agriculture will face because of this.

We don't need anything like that. That's for sure. And I can assure Alexander Alexandrovich and all other readers and listeners that the Russian negotiators maintain daily contact with all sectors of the Russian economy, and the overwhelming majority of representatives of those sectors think that the terms Russia is negotiating for will benefit us. Our agri-industrial sector has some doubts though, as is evidenced by public statements made by the Agriculture Ministry senior officials.

But in my view these agreements meet Russia's interests on the whole. For example, the Russian state will support agricultural exports to an amount of about $9 billion a year during the transitional period, which if I am not mistaken is seven years.

Today this support is about $2 billion. In other words, we do not cut anything and will have an opportunity to increase state support to Russian agriculture immensely absolutely legally, in accordance with international agreements. If eventually our agriculture starts modernizing itself under the pressure of external competition and assuming more effective methods, I think it and the country in general will only benefit.

Moderator: Stanislav asks how United Russia is going to solve the problem of intellectual property rights in our country especially since this is one of the stumbling blocks in Russia's accession to the WTO?

Kosachev: Indeed, this is one of the most acute issues.

Moreover, this is one of the issues that will affect Russian citizens faster than others because the protection of intellectual property rights is a choice each of us has to make because it is very comfortable for each of us to buy pirate versions at give-away prices, be it videos or computer software, but on the other hand we must understand that as long as pirate products are sold in our streets illicitly and sometimes openly, our film directors, our actors, and our software specialists will continue to leave Russia for countries where their intellectual property rights are properly protected and where they will get paid properly for their honest work. This is why each of us has to make a choice. I am sure that we must make our choice in favor of unconditional protection of intellectual property rights in our country, even if we have to pay for that more than we pay now.

While entering the WTO Russia assumed broad obligations to bring its legislation and the real situation in line with international standards. We know that certain human rights and law enforcement structures undertaking concrete measures to that end.

You can simply turn on your television to see how many raids have been carried out lately at places were counterfeit products are made or sold. I am sure that Russia will move along this road consistently and resolutely because this meets our own national interests.

Moderator: Another question: "Have any measures been taken to prevent a conflict in the Middle East?" Kosachev: I can say that in parallel to political efforts, this question will continue to be discussed at the UN Security Council or all other forums. Now a possible deployment of a multilateral peacekeeping continent to the Middle East is under discussion.

If we ask ourselves how Russia should take such a possibility, I would say that if and when such a decision is made, and it can only be made by the UN, Russia, as a responsible party to international processes, must not stay away from it. And I think we should take part in such peacekeeping operation.

But I want to emphasize that this decision may be adopted only if the international community is confident of the success of the peacekeeping operation. And its success in turn is possible only when all warring factions approve of the idea of initiating a peacekeeping operation. So far we have no such situation because Israel actively objects to such operation.

There is no unanimity among the Arab states in there region either. And this means that sending peacekeepers over there will create a very dangerous situation primarily for the peacekeepers themselves because they will get caught in the crossfire and face unjustified risks. This is unacceptable and may only be an extreme outcome of the current discussions in the world.

Moderator: A question from Vladimir: "What will happen to Russia's status as an energy superpower if oil prices plummet?" Kosachev: As we know the Russian budget is based on much lower oil prices than they are now. This year's budget is based on a price of $27 per barrel. Next year's budget will be based on a price of about $40 per barrel, which is still half of the current price. So, first and foremost, Russia is insured against a dramatic fall in energy prices by its intelligent and thoroughly developed economic policy and accumulated resources skilful and well-weighed economic policy and accumulated resources. I mean Stabilization Fund, first and foremost.

But Russia's status as an energy power does not depend on energy prices. It is predetermined by the availability of energy resources in Russia. According to objective estimates, energy consumption will grow many times in the world by 2030. At least by 150 percent. It is also known that more than 80 percent of energy resources consumed in the world will be mineral resources by 2030.

In this sense, Russia, which is a unique treasure trove of energy resources, will regain its positions as a global energy power irrespective of oil prices. But let me make an important point here.

I believe that when we speak of Russia's energy power status, we should gradually move away from reliance on energy exports, because gas and oil are energy resources, not energy.

And we should start gradually expanding the production of power energy or some derivatives of energy resources. For example, it should be gasoline, rather than crude oil. We should expand such production capacities in this country, because power energy is a high-added value product like computers or automobiles. Russia should certainly move from the situation when it produces raw materials used as feedstock for energy generation into a state of a country producing power energy. I believe that this goal is now being formulated by the country's leadership. This goal is very topical for United Russia.

Moderator: We have lots of questions that do not focus directly on the agenda of the summit. We have the following question: "Will Abkhazia join the Russian Federation?" Second: "Why has the US administration supported Georgia and its policy?" Kosachev: Russian parliamentarians have many times received appeals from legitimate, elected power bodies in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But I would like to note that the Abkhazian side has never, as far as I know, raised the issue of joining Russia. We have received such calls from South Ossetian politicians, because this concerns unification of the Ossetian people.

In the case of Abkhazia, those appeals are requests for Russia to recognize Abkhazia's independence. Abkhazia's joining the Russian Federation's fold is not topical for that simple reason that it has not been raised by the Abkhazian side. Therefore, it cannot be raised by the Russian side.

As for prospects for resolving the Abkhazia and South Ossetia problems, they depend exclusively on whether or not they will be able to establish direct dialogue between Tbilisi, on the one hand, and Sukhumi and Tskhinvali, on the other. Any attempts to present those conflicts -- between Georgia and Abkhazia and Georgia and South Ossetia -- as conflicts where Russia plays the first fiddle are counterproductive, because they just preserve those conflicts at least or even further escalate them.

The point of those conflicts is that for several decades, including in Soviet times, there have been certain tensions between the Georgian and Abkhazia, Georgian and Ossetian population of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. At the end of the 1980s and the start of the 1990s, the Georgian authorities could not think of anything better than liquidating the autonomous status of relevant territories.

It was roughly the same in Yugoslavia, when Slobodan Milosevic made the same silly thing, having liquidated the autonomous status of Kosovo, which resulted in the Kosovo problem. We know where it has developed now. The effects of that absurd approach and, I would say, criminal decisions that led to bloodletting, are still felt there.

In Abkhazia and South Ossetia they resolutely reject the idea of living in one single state with the Georgian nation, in the Georgian state.

Therefore, either the Georgian authorities will be able to win back trust by peaceful political means and convince people in Abkhazia and South Ossetia that their rights will be fully guaranteed and protected in that single state, that in the South Ossetia case all the required preconditions will be created for the Ossetian people's unity as an ethnos and the Abkhazia case all conditions will be guaranteed for the region's normal economic and social development -- that's one option -- or the Georgian authorities will continue to face the problem of separatism on those territories based on the legitimate right of those peoples to self- determination.

Russia's role in those conflicts is limited to preventing further bloodletting and giving the parties an opportunity to come to terms with each other. If and when Tbilisi comes to realize this, the situation may develop in a more positive direction. As long as Tbilisi does not understand this, the situation will just continue to degrade from the point of view of retaining a single Georgian state.

Moderator: "Why did Russia oppose the adoption of a declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples during the first session of the UN Human Rights Council held from June 19-30 this year?" Kosachev: The specific of the situation is that the issue of the indigenous population looks totally different and has different financial consequences in Russia than in other countries, where the indigenous population makes a negligible share of population. In Russia, the indigenous population makes a substantial -- even if not a majority -- minority of the population of Russia and the rights of indigenous peoples are protected properly in Russia at the national level and much more effective than in many other countries. Let me give you just one example. Our Estonian colleagues, when they try to substantiate their imaginary or real claims for a revision of the border with Russia, say that the Setu ethnic group lives in the area that the foolhardy Estonian guys claim, and that this ethnic group is divided by the border and therefore the border must be revised.

I can tell you that the Setu ethnic group is recognized by Russian legislation as one of the small indigenous peoples, but the Setu ethnic group is not recognized by Estonian legislation, and this group simply does not exist there legally. It exists only when they need it as an argument to put pressure on Russia in certain situations. So, the declaration certainly is important and may exist, but in its present form it does not mirror the specific features of the countries where indigenous peoples make up a considerable portion of the population. And therefore work on this document will continue.

Q: A couple of hours ago the Georgian parliament voted for the withdrawal of peacekeepers from Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Now the final say belongs to the President of Georgia who, as we all know, has requested a meeting with the President of Russia. The Russian side has so far not given any concrete reply. So the question is, what is the probability that Georgia will make the final decision on the withdrawal of peacekeepers, and what consequences can that have?

Kosachev: I will begin with the last part of your question. If Georgia forces through its decision on the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from the zones of the Abkhazian and South Ossetian conflicts, this will be fraught with new clashes and a repetition of the situations of 1992 and 1994 in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. This decision of the Georgian parliament has no legal consequences as far as the status of peacekeepers in those regions is concerned. This is nothing more than an appeal to the national government and the leadership of the country. The Georgian parliament has made such appeals before and as we know, they were not followed by any decisions on the executive level.

We can only hope that the Georgian leadership will have enough common sense and understanding of its responsibility than our colleagues in the Georgian parliament have. At any rate Georgia's universal decisions in that regard should be taken into account or not taken into account by the structures that issued the mandate to the peacekeeping forces in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Let me remind you that our peacekeepers in Abkhazia received their mandate from the CIS, by agreement with the UN. The peacekeeping contingent carries out a number of missions, and one is to escort and ensure the security of the UN observer mission in Georgia. In other words, it provides support. In the case of South Ossetia, it's a four-party mandate and a four-party agreement that was supported at the international level, notably by the OSCE. The four-party agreement was reached among Russia, Georgia, South Ossetia and North Ossetia. So, Georgia is only one of the parties to a multilateral process. And I think that speaks for itself.

But most importantly, if Georgia wants to resolve the South Ossetian and Abkhazian problems, efforts should be concentrated not only on the peacekeepers, because the peacekeepers by definition cannot carry out political settlement missions in their respective regions. They carried out splendidly, and I think carrying out splendidly, the mission of preventing bloodshed. I think we have been doing an excellent job. All other missions should be carried out by politicians, primarily by Georgian ones.

Q: A follow up question. The G8 summit agenda yesterday included the resolution of frozen and not only frozen conflicts in the post-Soviet space. Could you tell us more about that? And who spoke on the Georgian issue and how?

Kosachev: As far as I know, the Georgian issue was mentioned at the multilateral meeting only in passing. At least it was not even mentioned in the final statement of the chairman, which was of course an agreed upon document. It mentions for example the situation in Nagorny Karabakh, which is also a troubled spot in the post-Soviet space, but it doesn't say a word about Abkhazia or South Ossetia. As far as I understand there was such discussion during bilateral meetings. The Georgian leadership often appeals to the international community, obviously thinking that the international community can support the Georgian armed forces' actions at first in South Ossetia and, in case of success, in Abkhazia.

The international community is facing a very important task of not giving such an illusion to the Georgian leadership. I think none of the participants in the summit supports the idea of using force to resolve so-called frozen conflicts in the post-Soviet space, irrespective of where they are. I think the meeting in St.

Petersburg confirmed this once again. And I think this consolidated position will certainly be made known to the Georgian President when he comes to Russia on July 21.

Q: I would like to go back to the summit. How will this summit benefit Russia?

Kosachev: Russia has been in the center of world politics for many months. And this is not some speculative attention in terms of whether it will succeed or not, or whether it will be better or worse. Not at all. The point is that the G8 chairmanship presupposes very serious events, and the summit is only one of the events albeit very important. As I have already said, dozens of sectoral meetings were held, and dozens more are to be held before the end of the year. Key ministers from G8 countries come to Russia.

Representatives of different political forces, NGOs, civil society, and mass media come to Russia. And all this attracts attention to our country of course, perhaps, even more than the Olympic Games or civil society, the mass media, and all that naturally attracts the attention to the country as such. I am convinced that this attracts even bigger attention than the Olympics or the World Cup.

In my opinion, Russia's G8 presidency proved the main thing -- it is that our membership is not accidental, that it was not due to political situation in the mid-1990s, that it is not an undeserved gift. It is a recognition of the obvious thing that without Russia it is either impossible or substantially harder and costlier to deal with global problems than with Russia's participation.

I participated in the preparation, in the initial stage, when the concept of Russia's G8 presidency was being considered. I could see that representatives of many, so to say, groups of interests tried to convince the country's leadership that Russia's G8 presidency should be used in Russia's own interests first and foremost. For example, that when discussing energy, we should lobby for the interests of Russian energy companies; when discussing infectious diseases, we should bring our pharmaceutical industry, healthcare system to the foreground.

This is a wrongful approach and I am pleased to say that the country's leadership, Russia's president would not yield to that pressure. Russia's G8 presidency has been an opportunity for us to show that Russia is a responsible and serious player in global processes like any other country that joined the club earlier than Russia; that we can act on behalf of the international community and offer solutions that would be in global interests to the international community. In this sense, I believe that the summit was perfect. And Russia's G8 presidency has been optimal. All participants in that process share the view, I think.

Q: You have said that the summit meeting of the parliament leaders of the G8 member countries will open on September 15. Will it be held in Strelna as well? Will the agenda be different from that of the G8 summit? Will there be other issues on the agenda? In particular, will Russia's WTO accession be considered?

Kosachev: The summit will be held from September 15 through 17, with the main workday on September 16. It will also take place in St. Petersburg, but not in Strelna. It will be held at the Tavrichesky Palace, the choice is obvious. Tavrichesky is the birthplace of Russia's parliamentarism. Naturally, the speakers of parliaments of G8 member countries have been invited and most of them have confirmed their personal participation. There are two main blocks of issues on the agenda. One of them concerns legislative support for counteracting new challenges and threats. By new challenges and threats we mean counteracting terrorism, the struggle against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the struggle against poverty, which is a classical issue on the G8 agenda. Other issues will include infectious diseases again and trafficking in humans.

The other major issue is legislative support for energy security, energy dialogue. Clearly, in the latter case we will offer our partners to discuss the Energy Charter, whether it corresponds to current realities, whether it could be transformed into a document that could be adopted by the international community by consensus.

The WTO is not quite an issue for interparliamentary discussions. At the current stage, at least, this is an issue for government negotiators. If the talks are completed by September, which I cannot rule out, the ratification of relevant agreements by the national parliaments will become topical. In that case, the issue will certainly be discussed during the St. Petersburg summit.

Q: What efforts has the State Duma exerted to resolve the Russian-Japanese Northern territories problem?

Kosachev: Russia's State Duma has not made any efforts to resolve the problem you have mentioned because we cannot see any such problem. As far as I understand, that problem exists in the Japanese parliament, in the Japanese public opinion. So, let the Japanese parliament deal with it.

We are always ready for dialogue on the issue. We have intensively exchanged views on a bilateral basis, via relevant committees, liaison groups.

Contacts have also invigorated recently between parties. In particular, on July 24, on our invitation, the United Russia's invitation, the secretary for foreign affairs of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party will visit Moscow. He will lead a representative delegation. ON August 25, the General Secretary of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party will come to Russia on the invitation of Vyacheslav Volodin, Secretary of United Russia's General Council Presidium.

Naturally, we will be ready to discuss any problems, including the one you mentioned, including between parties.

But this certainly is not an urgent problem. The northern territories are Russian territories and the Japanese side has not accepted what the country's leadership once proposed. As a result, there has been no progress. I am absolutely convinced that time works for Russia, not Japan.

Q: A question on Ukraine. IN principle, Russia has never tried to conceal that it gives preference to Yanukovich's program, to the Party of Regions. If nothing out of the ordinary happens, a new majority will be formed in the Ukrainian parliament and it looks like Yanukovich will become the country's prime minister. Do you expect that Russian-Ukrainian relations will be given a positive impetus as a result? Russia may even decide to review accords on gas.

Kosachev: Let me start by saying that Russia, at the government level, has never voiced any preferences. I don't think it should do this. We will be satisfied to see any prime minister in Ukraine, if that prime minister enjoys support of the majority of the Ukrainian population and plays a consolidating role.

As for political preferences, I can speak on behalf of our party, United Russia, and we do not hide our political preferences.

To us, the Party of Regions is our strategic partner in Ukraine. We have signed a cooperation agreement that has been consistently implemented. Mr. Yanukovich attended our latest congress in Krasnoyarsk as a guest and made a speech. So, we certainly do not make a secret of our political preferences.

As for the actions of the future Ukrainian government, what is important to us is that these actions should not tear the country apart. When Ukrainian authorities start acting by the "either-or" principle when some are for Russia and others are for the so-called West, this inevitably tears Ukraine apart and therefore makes it weaker, more unpredictable and more problematic in terms of development. Russia needs stable and prosperous Ukraine that builds its policy not on the basis of short-lived situations but on the basis of strategic interests.

We feel offended when in all public opinion polls more than 80 percent of the country's population are against Ukraine's membership in NATO, but a certain part of the Ukrainian establishment says no, there is no other way but Ukraine's accession to the North Atlantic Alliance.

And the last part of your question was about gas agreements.

No, I do not think that our gas pricing policy depends on the composition of the Ukrainian government. We have proclaimed a transition to market relations in terms of energy supplies. You might have noticed that we offer absolutely identical terms to friendly Armenia and to Georgia with which Russia has problems. I think gas prices for Ukraine will depend solely on economic aspects and based on transparent formulas that have already been offered to our Ukrainian negotiators.

But of course if it's a government that seeks cooperation, not confrontation, with Russia, we will be looking for compromises with such government, roughly speaking offer it some low-interest credits if the Ukrainian economy has no money to pay the market price for gas or some other commodities. We will also be flexible on other issues, including customs tariffs and energy VAT. In other words, there is a rather big range of civilized levers that are consistent with the principles of free and liberal world trade and that should be diversified and used flexibly depending on the nature of political relations between countries.

Moderator: Sergei asks: "What does United Russia think about the termination of Voice of America broadcasts in Russia?" Unfortunately, I do not know the background.

Kosachev: Neither do I. As far as I know there has been some complaints about regional VOA studios that Russian licensing authorities said simply violated their licenses. For example, the studios were supposed to prepare their own materials, but instead, in violation of the licenses, they broadcast materials prepared elsewhere by other people.

According to the information I have, this is a legal dispute over compliance with license terms and is not in any way related to the political assessments of this radio station's activities or to attempts to impose some restrictions on its activities in Russia for political reasons. United Russia is a convicted advocate of the freedom of the press, including foreign corporations' broadcasts in our country.

Q: I can only add that Liberty broadcast today on the short and medium wave bands from morning because ... (inaudible) ...

Kosachev: Thank you very much.

Moderator: Thank you.

Expert opinion

Halter Marek

02.12.06

Halter Marek
Le College de France
Olivier Giscard dEstaing

02.12.06

Olivier Giscard dEstaing
COPAM, France
Mika Ohbayashi

02.12.06

Mika Ohbayashi
Institute for Sustainable Energy Poliy
Bill Pace

02.12.06

Bill Pace
World Federalist Movement - Institute for Global Policy
Peter I. Hajnal

01.12.06

Peter I. Hajnal
Toronto University, G8 Research Group