Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko hailed cooperation between the two countries during their meeting in Minsk on Thursday, the first since Putin’s return to the Kremlin.
“Good years are yet to come for us, I am sure,” Lukashenko told Putin, who arrived in Minsk earlier on Thursday for his first foreign visit since his inauguration on May 7.
“We have already achieved good results both in politics and in the economy,” he said, adding that the creation of a Union State between Russia and Belarus was the “main success” in bilateral relations.
Belarus “has been and will always be Russia’s closest and most reliable ally,” he added.
Russia and Belarus signed a deal to establish the Union State in 1999.
Putin also praised the Russian-Belarusian integration, pointing to growing trade turnover between the countries.
Last year, bilateral trade increased by 40 percent to a record annual rate of $39 billion, while in the first four months of 2012, a 29-percent growth was registered, Putin said.
“This shows that integration was the right choice,” he added.
In November 2010, the Russian, Belarusian and Kazakh presidents signed a declaration on Eurasian economic integration, a roadmap of integration processes aimed at creating the Eurasian Economic Union, which will be based on the Customs Union and common economic space among the three countries.
In December last year, the three leaders signed an agreement on the Eurasian Economic Commission, a new supranational body to manage economic integration of the three former Soviet republics.
During Thursday talks, Putin invited Lukashenko to visit Russia.