“Putin and I won’t elbow each other out of the way” – Medvedev

The South Stream pipeline project, Russia’s stance on the situation in Afghanistan and Medvedev’s plans for the 2012 presidential election have been in the limelight of the Medvedev-Berlusconi media briefing in Rome.

The Russian President is on a working trip to Italy and has talked with the media after a meeting with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Watch Dmitry Medvedev's joint media briefing with Silvio Berlusconi

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First of all Medvedev thanked the Italian Prime Minister for the great atmosphere during the talks and said that they covered both bilateral cooperation in the economic and cultural spheres, and international issues such as Russia’s initiative on European security, situation in Afghanistan and Iran’s nuclear program.

“South Stream’s chances are brilliant”

Russia and its European partners have brilliant chances to fulfill the South Stream project, President Medvedev said, especially after the signing of the Russia-Italy memorandum on the issue.

“The main thing now is to hold to the schedule and the agreements which have earlier been reached over the project,” he said.

Dmitry Medvedev added that both the South Stream and Nord Stream projects are aimed at a brand new system of European energy security, and “everything will be fine if we manage to implement it.”

As for Prime Minister Berlusconi, he positively assessed the Russia-Italy partnership in the gas sphere.

“We are going to realize the South Stream project fully, and our main aim is not to pass the pipeline through Ukrainian territorial waters,” Berlusconi said.

He also added that, in building South Stream, neither Moscow nor Rome are competing with any other gas pipeline projects, and in particular Nabucco.

“It is just important for us to have safe gas deliveries from Russia,” Berlusconi said.

2012 presidential election in Russia

President Medvedev has not excluded the possibility that he will run for presidency in 2012, but pointed out that he and Prime Minister Putin are “close people who understand each other very well and work together. We will be able to come to an understanding on how not to elbow each other out of the way but make the reasonable decision for our country.”

At that, Dmitry Medvedev pointed out that it is absolutely necessary to have the strong backing of the people.

“Only in this case, either Mr Putin or I will have a chance to be elected,” he added. “We don’t know the future, we don’t know what will happen in a few years, but anyway I’m sure that Mr Putin and I will behave as responsible politicians.”

“Russia ready to support US efforts in Afghanistan”

President Medvedev recently had a phone conversation with Barack Obama on Afghanistan and praised the US president’s step.

“This is a serious approach. We are ready to support our partners’ efforts in Afghanistan by means of providing the possibility of transit through our territory, and training police and the military.”

Dmitry Medvedev said that those functions which European and American military forces are carrying out in Afghanistan are, in fact, peace-supporting functions.

“But only a national government will be able to put things right in that country and Afghanistan should find itself as a state, as any attempt to implement foreign political technologies there won’t end in anything,” he concluded.

“Russia’s initiative on European security important and necessary”

Silvio Berlusconi called Russia’s initiative on the new European security architecture “a big, good, important and very necessary initiative.”

He said that the project of the security agreement will be discussed at the meeting of NATO heads of states in Brussels next week, and the same will be done on Friday by NATO foreign ministers.

In turn, Dmitry Medvedev has expressed hope that “Italy and other countries will join the document rather in a near-term than a long-term perspective.”

“I hope that our European partners will study the project of the agreement attentively,” Medvedev said, adding that Russia is ready to continue discussing the initiative at all platforms, including the EU, OSCE, NATO and CSTO.

Russia counts on Italy’s help in dialogue with EU

President Medvedev has said that the Russia-EU dialogue has greatly advanced during the last few years, and it keeps developing very constructively.

He has also said that Moscow counts on Italy’s support in solving the issues that Russia and the EU face.

“Italy always supported us, and here a personal credit goes to Prime Minister Berlusconi,” Medvedev said.

Moscow hopes to sign a new partnership agreement with the EU, Medvedev added.

“The EU has now a new identity. Perhaps the Russia-EU dialogue will be easier now, and perhaps not. We’ll see,” he said.

Bilateral issues

President Medvedev stressed that Italy is Russia’s major trade partner, with a turnover of $53 billion.

He also said that Russia will keep creating the conditions to attract Italian investors, mentioning that the volume of Italian investments into the Russian economy constitutes $10 billion as of now.

Dmitry Medvedev highly valued the exchange of cultural and educational programs between the two countries.

Both the Russian President and Italian Prime Minister have mentioned that 2011 will be the year of Italy in Russia and vice versa, which will help to develop the relationship further.

Russia-Vatican diplomatic relations

After the media briefing with Prime Minister Berlusconi, Dmitry Medvedev went to Vatican City on an official visit, after which the Russian President signed a decree establishing diplomatic relations with the Vatican, the Kremlin said.

Under the decree, Russia's mission to the Vatican will be transformed into an embassy.