Russia-Belarus Union State can benefit both countries - Medvedev

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Tuesday both Russia and Belarus would benefit greatly from an adherence to the founding principles of the Union State.

The two former Soviet neighbors have been trying to build a union since 1996, but have deviated from the original idea of political integration towards socio-economic cooperation.

A series of agreements signed during President Boris Yeltsin's second term culminated in the December 8, 1999 treaty to create the Union State, but Yeltsin's successor Vladimir Putin showed little enthusiasm for the project's grander goals.

"We are moving along the path toward the creation of a unified customs and economic space," Medvedev said in a message dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the treaty.

"We have a large-scale task ahead of us. Its realization is in the hands of the people."

"I am convinced that by an adherence to the principles of the construction of the Union, we will successfully move forward in the interests of the well-being of Russia and Belarus," he also said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited the Belarusian capital late last month, when he and the leaders of Belarus and Kazakhstan signed a package of deals to create a customs union with common tariffs, paving the way for a single economic space.

Medvedev also pledged in November a 30-40% discount on natural gas for Belarus in 2010, while Prime Minister Putin said last week that a cut in energy prices for Belarus should coincide with Minsk's integration into the Union State with Russia.

MOSCOW, December 8 (RIA Novosti)


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