Thoroughly new contacts will link Russia and the USA from now on to make bilateral partnership ever closer, say Presidents Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush. Russia and the USA are firmly determined to put a final end to the dire Cold War aftermath, said President Putin as he and President Bush were addressing a joint news conference to sum up today's bilateral negotiations. George W. Bush, in his turn, described November 13 as Progress Day in bilateral relations, which are being transformed and shifting onto a new basis to go over from mutual suspicion to confidence--a change which will give a greater chance of peace and progress to both nations and the entire human race. Russia and the USA will hold discussions as friends and partners, not enemies. The world is feeling a safer place thanks to Russian-US partnership. The terror challenge insistently calls for the USA and Russia to urgently start closer contacts, said President Bush. "We shall fight to hit terrorist targets wherever they might be," he emphasised. It is top priority to prevent terrorists from laying their hands on mass destruction weapons. The US-Russian dialogue on anti-missile defence will go on as each country has a stance of its own on the ABM treaty. That dialogue is indispensable for a new strategic framework to face 21st century challenges, added the US President. Russia highly appreciates his decision to cut the American nuclear arsenal to 1,700-2,000 warheads, said President Putin. Russia will work for a proportionate reduction, he emphatically added. Drastic cuts on Russian and US nuclear arsenals were prominent on today's summit agenda, said the Russian President. He highlighted certain progress on the strategic offensive arms issue. Russia clings to its previous stances on anti-missile defence, and a related dialogue will go on, he added. The Russian-US economic dialogue is getting more practical and dynamic, said President Putin. The implementation of several ambitious projects is gaining momentum--in particular, the Sakhalin 1 and the Caspian mainline consortium. Partnership is getting closer in aerospace, mining, chemical, automotive and some other industries. Direct contacts between private entrepreneurs are stepped up. The President pointed out progress toward Russia joining the World Trade Organisation. He does not think Russian-US economic partnership has fully implemented its potential. Much else has to be done here as in many other fields, he remarked--and expressed his hope for dynamic and fruitful teamwork. When the USA recognised Russia as a market-economy country, Moscow felt a growing realisation of the necessity to make the Jackson-Vanick amendment invalid for Russia. Made for political reasons in 1974 on the US law on commerce, the notorious amendment hampers bilateral trade as it demands Russia's best-favoured nation status confirmed every year. President Bush pledges to promote abolition of the discriminatory amendment in Russia's respect. The Administration will join hands on the issue with the US Congress, he said. Russia has done much to improve immigration arrangements and protect ethnic and religious minorities--in particular, the Jewish community. The situation graphically differs from the past in that respect, and President Putin vouches to strengthen and expand those freedom gains, said President Bush. Igor Ivanov, Russia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Colin Powell, US Secretary of State, confirmed the welcome developments with exchanged messages. Russia is willing to promote free markets, domination of the law, and strong independent mass media, stressed the US President. The Euro-Atlantic community also desires peace, and respects the independence and sovereignty of all democratic countries in Europe. Russia must be part and parcel of that Europe, Mr. Bush said emphatically as he promised the USA joining hands with NATO to elaborate new patterns of consultations with Russia. President Putin invited the US President to visit Russia whenever it suit him, and on whatever arrangement he would prefer, be it a state, routine or private visit. The news conference paid major attention to Afghan developments, the country's future, and Northern Alliance action. It is thoroughly wrong to allege that the Alliance entered Kabul against available understandings with the USA and Pakistan. As it really was, the Taliban had abandoned the Afghan capital, and the Alliance had to introduce security forces to keep developments under control and prevent plunder and murder, pointed out Russia's President. The Northern Alliance had certainly not taken Kabul by storm, he stressed. The media are circulating rumours of the Northern Alliance putting civilians to mass executions in Afghan areas liberated from the Taliban. The information has to be thoroughly checked, pointed out President Vladimir Putin, who qualified the rumours as "information resistance", usual part of wartime routine. In fact, the sinister rumour was launched by the Taliban a few days ago, when the Alliance was still fighting to oust them from the country's north, he added. Ethnic Uzbeks and Tajiks predominate the population in the Afghan north, and are prominent on the Northern Alliance forces. It is hard to believe they can shoot unarmed captives, said President Putin. "I rule it out." If human rights and regulations of POW handling are abused in the Afghan warfare, the outrages must certainly get due response--but not before they are proved, he pointed out. "For some reason, we no longer recall Taliban atrocities, world cultural heritage destroyed, and terrorists harboured," remarked Mr. Putin. The Taliban army, now in flight, was terror personified, said President Bush. As he referred to the Northern Alliance's public pledge not to take Kabul, he called to thoroughly analyse facts before making headlong conclusions. The USA will further cooperate with the Alliance and its commanders for Afghanistan to become a good neighbour to the countries round it, said the President as he referred to US efforts to put terrorists in the dock. The new Afghan government must represent all ethnic entities in the country. The post-Taliban government must not export terror and drugs, and must reckon with fundamental human rights. "We shall seek ways of cooperation to bring stability to that part of the world," added President Bush. As President Putin said, in his turn, he is much more alarmed now with terrorist training bases and an opportunity for terrorists to penetrate Russia's North Caucasus than with allegations of influence spheres eventually redivided to enhance US impact on Central Asia, he said. Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are independent states, and are choosing their allies independently, stressed the Russian President.
Russian small missile ships - the Grad Sviyazhsk and the Great Ustyug - set off for a mission to the Mediterranean Sea
President Vladimir Putin has not released an official statement yet about his position on the issue of the pension reform in Russia