Thank you, honourable Mr. Chairman.
Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen!
I recall the first meeting of the Group held in Moscow in 2006. You know, this first meeting revealed two aspects. First, the need for such a cultural center, and second, a great future for the Group. This is not only because from the very beginning the honorary co-chairmen of the Group were such outstanding people as Mr. Shaimiev, the first President of Tatarstan, and Yevgeny Primakov, a person with whom I was lucky to work together in the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for more than ten years.
Indeed, it lay the foundation for the success of this initiative, and, to tell the truth, the Group has also been fortunate to have Veniamin Popov as its coordinator.
You see his merit is not that he as a moderator finds speakers and gives them the floor, there is colossal work behind this. Over 10 years of its existence, the Group has become the center of outstanding theologians, politicians, representatives of civil society from many countries. And every meeting is a great step not only in achieving rapprochement between Russia and the Islamic world, but in understanding and assessing those global processes taking place on our planet.
Why does this meeting take place in Grozny? It is not only because the Chechen territory and its people are unusually hospitable, and I think all participants felt it, but they could also create for us such excellent conditions for work. And I think that it is also a very important factor for many Islamic countries to see for themselves how the process of post-conflict rehabilitation can be successful.
Grozny rose from ashes like a Phoenix and turned into a really blooming garden. And I think that all our honourable guests could see it for themselves as well as many states, such as Afghanistan, Libya, Syria which are at war.
All wars start and end. And it is quite difficult to say which is harder, to end a war or to rebuild a country.
And now I think Grozny to be a successful story which could be quite an instructive example for a number of countries. You know the name of its remarkable Group ‘Russia – Islamic World”. Today we heard many times here that there are indeed about 20 million of our compatriots in Russia who preach Islam. My economic education requires me to estimate this quantitative indicator, it means that it is about 15% from 145 million. But it is not about quantity but quality. The fact is that Russia and the Islamic countries are united by common values. And it determines the success of our Group and such a high degree of intensity of these discussions.
The reason of the alienation between Russia and the West, which possibly reached culmination, is that we have different values.
It can really be an important indicator which brings us together and allows to discuss common issues and to move forward and improve the international climate. Since our meeting has a debate, I will allow myself to disagree with some honourable speakers who said that the clash of civilizations had become a reality. Besides, Huntington himself has refused to consider this thesis, and this is quite interesting. But, as you know, to accept this fact means to accept that the Islamic world is another civilization, and it’s not true.
Moreover, Islam is an integral part of modern civilization.
Remember the period of crusades when poor Europe came to the East and saw that high level which countries professed Islam in science, culture and welfare had achieved. And today certainly the Islamic culture is an integral part of the global civilization in all spheres including the economy and as a rule it constantly enriches this civilization with positive elements.
Now a few words about what is closer to me – it is the economy. Our brilliant moderator gave the floor to almost 20 speakers during yesterday’s meeting. It is a unique case. Indeed, everyone who wanted to speak was given such an opportunity. And I noticed that during the first speech the honourable representative of the UAE said about the important role of trade and economic cooperation between Russia and the UAE, noting it as a quite positive trend.
I am taking a look at the representatives of various countries sitting at this table. To tell the truth, today our leading trade partner in the Islamic world is Turkey.
It is not only trade. In the near future a huge project will be completed. Russian specialists will build a nuclear plant there. It is not just about a new type of energy, it is about a new type of technology which Turkish specialists will explore with Russian specialists. By 2019 we will complete another mega project, the so-called ‘Turkish Stream’, a pipeline that will supply natural gas to our European consumers and significantly increase supplies to Turkey. Another country that I have to mention is Iran. During the visit of the Iranian President to the Russian Federation in April this year, our countries signed about 30 agreements on the economy, investment and trade. Indeed, we had a difficult period for seven quarters running. It was for the first time and this was because the Russian economy was in recession. Today we are witnessing an economic recovery. We proceed from the fact that this year economic growth will be about 2%. It is still not much, but it is the basis for further economic growth and for an opportunity to develop economic relations with all countries.
Arab countries are particularly important to us, as well as the Middle East countries and countries professing Islam in South-East Asia.
When Yevgeny Primakov headed the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, his first order was to create business councils with countries of the Arab region. He was not indifferent to this region and he understood all importance of developing trade and investment cooperation with this group of states. Today the Chamber has 74 business councils and among them 18 are councils with the Arab countries. Why are they so important? These are meetings in B2B format, which is business-to-business, and also business-to-government which is equally important.
To tell the truth, I am convinced that this year we will overcome all negative trends and our trade relations with countries whose representatives are here in this room will be based on simple trade exchanges as well as on investment cooperation and tourism. Certainly, this will be a good foundation for political cooperation, for contacts between people.
Today all this is extremely important. But you know, I would like to end my speech on a personal note. The fact is, I was born on May 15, 1948, so when we flew from Moscow to Grozny it was my birthday. I remembered this not to receive congratulations on this sad date. I will remind you that on this day the state of Israel was created, and the next day there was the Palestinian disaster, and 750,000 refugees were forced to leave their native land. I want to believe that I will live to see the day when an independent Palestinian state will be created. This is also important because it is hard to hope for a stable and long-lasting peace in the Middle East unless the Middle East conflict is resolved.
Therefore, I want to wish this Group great success in its work going forward, it has really great prospects indeed. Each meeting brings certain results, new ideas and I hope that they will be implemented. Thank you.