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Alexander Lukashenko, Vladimir Putin discuss Ukraine, Middle East conflicts

Alexander Lukashenko paid an official visit in Moscow. On December 15 in the Russian capital the heads of state of Belarus and Russia held talks. Both leaders noted the importance and timeliness of this visit. It is worth noting that the sides talked about four hours in the expanded format.

The current official visit of Alexander Lukashenko to Moscow began with the laying of a wreath on the grave of the Unknown Soldier near the Kremlin Wall. This ceremonial event is always full of deep meaning and symbolism. Belarusians and Russians were united by the tragic events of the Great Patriotic War.

The meeting in the Kremlin started with negotiations in the narrow format. It was clear that the politicians were aimed at a positive dialogue. This was evidenced by the handshake (a little longer than required by the protocol) and the general course of the conversation.

President Putin emphasized that Moscow is ready to develop both economic and political relations with Minsk. Although problems are present in the bilateral cooperation too. Over the past 10 months trade has been at $23 billion. Previously, the figure was almost twice as much. These days the parties aim to find new economic ground.

Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation: 
I am very glad to see you in Moscow. The level of political relations, the scope of economic cooperation, the progress in our relations, largely thanks to your efforts, - all this suggests that we have something to talk about. We often meet, nevertheless, we have been waiting for you and this official visit. We are very glad that we have been able to organize it in spite of all the current problems and we now can have a thorough conversation on a whole range of Russian-Belarusian relations.

Belarus is among the top five trade partners of Russia. On the agenda were issues of foreign policy, the military sphere, cooperation within the CIS and Eurasian Economic Union. On the sidelines this meeting was called "a serious conversation." Alexander Lukashenko confirmed that the conversation would touch many aspects of integration.

Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus President:
Some time ago, back in Ufa, we agreed that our governments would work out everything so that we can meet here in the Kremlin with you to address the remaining issues. We know perfectly well what Russia needs and what it wants from Belarus. I am sure that Russia knows perfectly what Belarus needs from Russia. I think that the resolution of the problems we have there helps our peoples to get closer. Although, frankly, it is not right to measure our relations with classic standards because we are so close to each other that these criteria are irrelevant. Nevertheless, I thank you for that assessment. And we are ready to briefly and clearly (I far as I understand from the government) discuss and resolve all the issues that we face today.

As expected, the economy prevailed during the talks. The plans include the expansion of regional cooperation and the establishment of industrial cooperation. Belarus has more than 200 contracts and agreements with regions of Russia and Belarus in the most important destination of Russian investment in the CIS. However, much will depend on external factors. The sides plan to increase the export potential thanks to creation of the Eurasian Economic Union by removing barriers and restricting trade. By the way, Belarus chaired the EEU during 2015. Today at the meeting the leaders summed up the first year of the existence of the Union.

Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation:
We highly appreciate the activity of Belarus as the chairman of this integration association this year. We support the steps taken by Minsk to strengthen the legal framework of our organization, with the entry of new members - Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. In the international arena, Russia and Belarus conduct a coordinated foreign policy. This year, special attention was paid to implementation within the UN and other multilateral organizations of the complex of events dedicated to the 70th anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War.
Another example of such coordination is the acquisition by Belarus of observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in July 2015 year, with the active assistance of Russia.
We have noted the similarity of the positions of our countries on topical issues such as the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis and the fight against international terrorism in Syria.
In order to strengthen regional stability and security, we agreed to actively develop military and technical cooperation. I note that our mutual desire to expand humanitarian ties is traditionally strong.
Recently St. Petersburg hosted the Days of Minsk and Belarus in July played host to the Days of Russian Spiritual Culture. We will continue to support such projects.

The CIS needs to be reformed, but in greater detail this topic will be discussed at the next meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State, said the leaders.

The presidents discussed the situation in Ukraine and the Middle East. Situation in Western Europe is also difficult because of the current migration crisis. As emphasized by Alexander Lukashenko, there are no closed topics for discussion between Belarus and Russia.

Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus President:
We are satisfied with the nature and results of the cooperation between Belarus and Russia on the international arena. Today we talked in particular about Ukraine, and the situation in the Middle East and other hot spots. Belarus as a neighbor is interested in peace on the Ukrainian land and in the Middle East. And there are no differences with the position of the president of Russia on these issues.
We discussed in detail equal access of Belarusian goods to the Russian market. And we have received the support of Russian President in this regard. We know about the import substitution program, which is being implemented in the Russian Federation. By the way, we have adopted the second import substitution program in Belarus, having accumulated some experience. And we support this program of the Russian Federation. I must say that you are moving in the right direction. And the result will be already in the foreseeable future. But this program should not decrease the possibilities and activities of our joint ventures. Especially in this situation when Belarus delivers its goods and services. We don't want Belarusian goods to be considered foreign in Russia. Especially since they are regulated by bilateral agreements and EEU norms. Belarusian producers have a good reputation. And we are ready to cooperate fully in responding to the needs of the Russian market in terms of all groups of goods that we can produce with competitive price and quality. Some of our key export products are made from Russian components of Russian raw materials. That is, they are real products of Belarusian-Russian cooperation.
Once again I would like to emphasize the constructive nature of the talks. We have no closed topics for discussion. Nothing like that. We absolutely trust each other and openly talk and express our views during the negotiations.

The main results of the negotiations are enshrined in the joint statement, signed by presidents Putin and Lukashenko. By the way, one of the items concerns Belarusians living in Russia. They will not have to sit exams in Russian as a foreign language to confirm their right to stay in the country. Such a position is quite justified. After all, the two nations have been living in the Union State for decades.

Alexander Lukashenko, Vladimir Putin discuss Ukraine, Middle East conflicts