The Russian-German top-level consultations with the participation of Ministers have opened at the Mariinsky Palace of Petersburg. Opening the meeting, Vladimir Putin stated that Russia is ready "to reach a qualitatively new level" of relations with Germany. According to him, "over a short period of time Moscow and Berlin managed to overcome the tendencies of stagnation in relations a few years ago, and now the two countries' cooperation has seen a really good progress". Vladimir Putin noted that Russia "counts on understanding and cooperation in resolving the remaining problems". Moscow hopes that "the German partners will be the first to take advantage" of Russia's initiatives to de-bureaucratise and liberalise the economy. Vladimir Putin also highlighted the symbolic character of the fact that the Russian-German consultations at the summit level are being held in the city which has become an "embodiment of civilised unity of Russia and Europe". The President stressed that the Ministers of the two countries had done "serious and fruitful work", and will report on its results today. "I think that they will not side-track also the outstanding issues which are now hampering headway of large-scale projects", Putin said and also noted that both he and FRG Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder are ready to introduce more accurate formulations in the course of the dialogue and "may be, to correct something". The head of state recalled that last year the goods turnover between Russia and Germany reached the record level of DM 41.5 billion which is comparable with the volume of trade of the USSR with the FRG and the GDR in 1990. On the whole, "a stable interest of German investors in the Russian market manifests itself", the President noted. The sum total of the accumulated German investments stands at DM 6.9 billion, and of the direct ones - at 1.13 billion.
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