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BBC Monitoring
Putin explains regions' role in Russia's foreign policy
Source: Radio Mayak, Moscow, in Russian 1000 gmt 22 Jan 03

[Presenter] Russia's foreign policy is the main theme of the first State Council meeting held this year. The meeting is chaired by [President] Vladimir Putin. The main focus is border areas' cooperation with foreign countries.

Our correspondent Yelena Balayeva is live on the line to our Mayak studio.

[Correspondent] Hello. Opening the State Council meeting, Vladimir Putin noted that the annual agenda of all State Council meetings begins with the key issue of state policy, namely international cooperation. We have turned to this issue repeatedly at [Russian] Security Council meetings, at regional meetings and meetings with members of the Federation Council, since it is a very important issue, the president noted.

It is the Foreign Ministry that coordinates foreign policy, but the strengthening of the country's position and the interests of our citizens require action not just on the part of the Foreign Ministry but also on the part of all constituent parts of the federation.

Forming a foreign policy strategy is not an elitist pastime, the federal authorities should help constituent parts of the federation, and the actions of the federal authorities should be understandable to constituent parts of the federation, the head of state said.

The main thing, the president noted, is that foreign policy should work for the benefit of ordinary citizens. Here is what Vladimir Putin said on the subject:

[Putin] There is also a substantial potential for cooperation between central and regional authorities on the protection of rights of Russian citizens, both abroad and inside the country. Thus a decision on the Kaliningrad transit problem, which meets the interests of the country, the needs of the region itself, and the protection of civil rights of the entire population of Russia, was reached as a result of intense joint work. The work is not yet complete, but a good start has been made.

Furthermore, I consider a search for new tools for efficient practical cooperation with regions to be a priority task for the Foreign Ministry and other federal bodies. The government has to feel the breath of life in the territories, while the territories should be more active in influencing the Russian state's international strategy and practice. All together, we should remember that, in present-day conditions, the results of our work directly affect the life and welfare of our citizens.

[Correspondent] Vladimir Putin has asked governors to express their views on ways to improve the effectiveness of the state's foreign policy.

The State Council meeting is also likely to discuss the deficiencies of the existing legislative base, which was noted by the president. Vladimir Putin said many governors were asking for special laws regulating cross-border cooperation.

[Presenter] The key area in Russia's state policy is work with CIS countries, Vladimir Putin said in the Kremlin today, opening the State Council meeting.

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