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Press statements following Russian-Abkhazian talks

August 8, 2017, Sochi

President of the Republic of Abkhazia Raul Khadjimba: Mr Putin, colleagues,

We, the entire Abkhazian nation, are happy and honoured to welcome the President of the Russian Federation here on Abkhazian land. We meet regularly, which speaks to the privileged character of interstate relations between Abkhazia and Russia and the firm bonds of alliance and strategic partnership between our states and peoples.

Today’s meeting with President of Russia Vladimir Putin was held in a traditional friendly and constructive spirit and was extremely useful for the common interests of Abkhazia and Russia. We discussed all the most important bilateral issues.

Naturally, we primarily discussed the socioeconomic development of Abkhazia. As you may know, the Russian Federation is rendering substantial financial aid through the investment programme and other channels, which allows us to carry out major infrastructure projects, develop the economy, and build roads, communications and social facilities.

This year the funding under the investment programme will exceed 2.5 billion rubles. Abkhazia prepared detailed design specification and estimates that passed expert evaluation, which allowed us to start practical work on facilities under the investment programme.

We are carrying out projects with small and medium-sized businesses with loans from Russian banks. The Russian Investment Agency has allocated 1.2 billion rubles for these purposes.

This programme has enabled Abkhazia to develop successfully a number of production lines, primarily in agriculture, which gives us grounds to hope for serious progress in developing our own economy in the immediate future.

Considering the efficiency of this programme, the growth of business activity in the country and the need to provide companies with affordable loans, Abkhazia has expressed interest in taking bigger loans. This will help us speed up our socioeconomic development, create more jobs, and expand the tax base.

Since the Republic of Abkhazia was recognised by the Russian Federation in 2008, trade between Abkhazia and Russia has grown 3.5 times: from 7 to 24.5 billion rubles. Imports increased from 6.2 to 19.1 billion rubles and exports from 900 million to 5.5 billion rubles.

In general, we noted positive dynamics in the implementation of the provisions of the Abkhaz-Russian agreement on alliance and strategic partnership. Ahead of our meeting, for example, Abkhazia ratified an agreement on the establishment and the activities of the joint information and coordination centre of the internal affairs bodies of Abkhazia and Russia. We expect that the new body will be a serious and effective tool to combat crime and improve the criminal situation in the country.

We continue work to create a single defence and security contour. For these purposes, we will form a unified grouping of troops of the armed forces of Abkhazia and Russia under a separate agreement.

We continue to cooperate through our foreign policy departments implementing mechanisms for coordinating foreign policy, in particular, in the format of the Geneva discussions. We actively advance cooperation in the field of culture, education and humanitarian activities.

I would like to single out that the issues that we discussed earlier in our meetings with the Russian President are being addressed for the good of our citizens, in particular, the creation of more comfortable conditions for crossing the state border. It can be said that the speed and efficiency of border and customs procedures have increased, and citizens have to spend less time at checkpoints.

On this point, we request that the Russian leadership do all it can to improve conditions for the export of Abkhazian agricultural goods to Russia, which we would like to see. We believe that for faster and more efficient customs clearance and implementation of various types of state control, including phytosanitary control, it is necessary to use existing mechanisms, in particular, those provided for by a number of agreements in the customs field.

This will help to develop the agricultural industry of Abkhazia and increase the supply of high-quality, environmentally friendly produce from Abkhazian agricultural producers to Russian consumers.

In conclusion, I would like to personally thank President of Russia Vladimir Putin for invariably supporting the Republic of Abkhazia, and for the thoughtful and attentive approach to our problems. Our people are sincerely grateful to you for this.

The Republic of Abkhazia has been and will always be Russia’s reliable ally and friend. I am confident that fruitful Abkhazia-Russia cooperation based on the principles of alliance and strategic partnership will continue developing for the benefit of our peoples.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Khadjimba, friends,

The President of Abkhazia and I had truly substantive talks in a spirit of trust. After the dramatic events of nine years ago, Russia recognised the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Much has been done since then to substantially consolidate the republics’ statehood.

Abkhazia is Russia’s important partner and ally, with which we are united by common history and spiritual kinship. Russia will continue facilitating Abkhazia’s socioeconomic development, reliably ensuring its security and rendering all manner of political support.

For its part, the Abkhazian leaders are taking consistent steps to consolidate the republic’s international legal status. I would like to note that cooperation between ministries and departments, parliaments, and civil society institutions is successfully developing, and interregional ties and humanitarian contacts are gaining momentum in the framework of close dialogue between partners.

At the current meeting, we paid special attention to the development of Abkhazia as a modern state with a productive self-sufficient economy. The investment programme about which the President has just spoken is aimed at creating conditions for long-term and steady growth. About six billion rubles have been allocated for this programme in 2017–2019.

Russia has traditionally been the republic’s main economic partner. In January-March our trade increased by 6.5 percent. Foods, primarily fruit and vegetables, account for a large share of Abkhazia’s exports to Russia.

Considering the restrictions we imposed on imports of agricultural produce from a number of countries in 2014, the Republic of Abkhazia has very good opportunities to continue increasing its supplies to the Russian market.

We agreed to bolster direct ties between business communities. A special role here belongs to regular Russian-Abkhaz business forums. The next, eighth one will take place in Sukhumi at the end of this year.

Let me remind you that with the assistance of Russian banks a whole number of projects are currently being implemented in such spheres as tourism, agriculture and the food industry, worth a total of around one billion rubles. We hope that all this will help boost tax revenues to Abkhazia's budget, create new jobs and improve living standards.

The President did, indeed, raise the question of changing customs procedures and inspections of phytosanitary services. We have some ideas here. I think that we will implement them in the near future.

President Khadjimba and I discussed matters concerning the further development of the contractual legal framework of our bilateral relations. More than 100 documents have already been signed between our countries. We have issued instructions to expedite work on a number of agreements to advance the practical implementation of the clauses of the 2014 Agreement on Alliance and Strategic Partnership.

We are looking to work out a road map for a stage-by-stage deepening of cooperation in defence, security and border protection, as well as in the socioeconomic and humanitarian spheres.

For example, an agreement on the establishment of an information and coordination centre of the internal affairs agencies of Russia and Abkhazia has recently come into force. Its aim is to enhance the effectiveness of joint anti-crime efforts. This is very important, particularly in terms of ensuring peaceful holidays for Russian tourists visiting Abkhazia.

Of great social significance is the agreement that was just signed, which stipulates that Russia's mandatory health insurance system will extend to Russian citizens living in Abkhazia and entitles them to healthcare services in Russian healthcare institutions.

Cultural and humanitarian ties are developing. In August 2016, the large-scale Russian Days in Abkhazia scored a huge success. This year, more events are being held as part of the 2017 Russia-Abkhazia Cultural Season.

During the talks, we agreed to more closely coordinate our efforts to resist challenges and threats to security in the South Caucasus. The integrated Russian military base on Abkhazian territory continues to play a crucial role in maintaining stability in the region.

In conclusion, I would like to express confidence that the implementation of the agreements reached during today's visit will make a tangible contribution to the further strengthening of Russian-Abkhazian relations.

I would like to thank you, Mr President, and all your colleagues for the warm and cordial welcome.

August 8, 2017, Sochi