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#21 - JRL 7240
June 25, 2003  
President Vladimir Putin
Speech at the reception at Buckingham Palace

Before beginning the official part of my speech, I wish to express to Her Majesty the Queen and to the British people my sincere condolences for the death of the British soldiers in Iraq. Now it is becoming clear that whatever differences there may have been between us, we must act together.

(This part of the speech was given by President Vladimir Putin in English)

Your Majesty, ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, please allow me to thank you for the warm welcome we have received and to tell you that we were deeply touched by the words of greeting you conveyed to Russia and its people. Most importantly of all, the sincerity of these words is confirmed by the results of our intensive bilateral cooperation. In Russia people have great respect for you, Your Majesty, and for the royal family. The Russians see in you a noble example of faithful and selfless service in the name of your people and a model of untiring defence of your nations spiritual values and traditions.

I must say that we prepared for this visit to Britain as for a most important event, and gave it the utmost significance. All the more so as this is the first such visit on this level in our countries history since 1844. Here, at Buckingham Palace, the foundation stones of which were laid back in the eighteenth century, it is appropriate to remember that the history of official relations between Russia and Britain reach far back indeed, farther back than the century in which this palace was raised. This year, we celebrate the 450th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between our countries.

But even before then, British and Russian merchants were already building up business and economic ties. No distance was too great to get in the way of the development of trade. That these contacts were active indeed is illustrated by the fact that in the mid-sixteenth century a trading company was established to develop commercial ties with Russia. This was the first such company not just in Britain, but in all of Europe. Its very name, Moskovskaya, is a delight to the heart of every Russian. Today, its traditions are continued by the British-Russian Chamber of Commerce, which works effectively to build up and strengthen our economic ties. The visit to Britain by Peter the Great in 1698 is considered one of the landmarks in our countrys history. The tsar-reformers travels to your country and to other European lands helped make your country more familiar to us. When he came home, Peter the Great told English engineer John Perry that the island of England was the most beautiful in the world.

I am sure that the thousands of Russian tourists, businesspeople and young people who visit Britain feel just the same way today.

Your Majesty, ladies and gentlemen, the chronicle of Russian-British relations contains many glorious pages, and above all, contains evidence of how our cultures have interacted and drawn on each other and of the spiritual closeness of our peoples. Also here we find the names of great scientists, writers, musicians, military commanders and entrepreneurs. And of course, a page that stands apart in our common history is that of the military alliance between our peoples during the Second World War. We shall never forget the dramatic years of our common battle for victory over an enemy that threatened all of humanity.

Our countries have always had a key place in the resolution of each others foreign policy priorities. We are therefore particularly pleased to see that relations between Russia and Britain have moved to a qualitatively new level over recent years.

We have learned to understand each other well and to work fruitfully together. And this has yielded substantial dividends in all the areas in which we work together.

Our level of political cooperation is particularly high. What is important is that this is enabling us to develop our trade and economic ties. Here, Britain is the leader on many counts.

We are grateful to Your Majesty the Queen for your considerable contribution to developing relations between our countries. We all remember your visit to Russia in 1994, which gave a powerful impulse to developing these ties. This visit has left warm memories in the minds of the Russian people.

I hope that you too have been left with warm memories of your visit to our country and your chance to become acquainted with its great culture and its open, friendly and just people.

I am certain that this state visit will inject new energy into bilateral relations between Russia and Britain.

Allow me to raise a toast to the health of Her Majesty and to the prosperity of the British people.

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