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France and Russia Sorted out their Relationship
September 19, 2007 18:48

Bernard Kouchner, Foreign and European Affairs Minister of France, has presented the interests of the new French government during his two-day working visit in Moscow on September 17 and 18. Since Nicolas Sarkozy is French President, the position of the two countries differ on some issues, including unilateral recognition of Kosovo independence, the Irannian nuclear issue and antimissile defense system.

The talks of Mr Kouchner and Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, have become the preparation for the French President Nicolas Sarkozy visit to Moscow in October. As the result of negotiations Russia and France are keeping on holding to their own opinions.

The main discrepancies concern first of all the Kosovo problem. Sergei Lavrov has warned that a unilateral recognition of Kosovo's independence will have dangerous consequences both for Europe and other regions of the world.

"I do not see how a unilateral recognition of Kosovo's independence can stabilize the situation in Europe. It will rather trigger a chain reaction in various parts and continents of the world," Lavrov told a press conference in Moscow on Tuesday after talks with French Minister Bernard Kouchner.

So Mr Kouchner has failed winning Mr Lavrov over, Moscow opposes any unilateral recognition of Kosovo and stands for further unlimited negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia.

As for the Iranian issue, the two countries are tending to avoid the military confrontation but differ in the pressing methods. The recent Mr Kouchner claim about the necessity to be ready for the worst disturbed Moscow, which is absolutely against any military decisions. Moscow was also surprised with the French initiative of the possible introducing sanctions against Iran by the USA and EU circumvention of the UN Security Council.

On the other hand, Paris and Moscow expressed the common interest on the question of antimissile shield and further widening of NATO. Inspite of the good relations between Nicolas Sarkozy and Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvily, Mr Koochner doubts if the Georgia joining to the NATO Mambership Action Plan is on the agenda.

The ministers have discussed in particular human rights, respect for property law and press freedom. Within his visit Mr Kouchner has visited the editorial office of The Novaya Gazeta (The New Newspapar) and came into the 307 office where Anna Politkovskaya had worked. (Anna Politkovskaya was The Novaya Gazeta journalist, who opposed Mr Putin policy and who was killed in October 2006.)

The two Ministers have also discussed the prospects for strengthening bilateral cooperation in accordance with President Sarkozys wish to base privileged partnership on concrete results whether with respect to economic cooperation or to political dialogue.

Bernard Kouchner has also met in Moscow with members of Russian civil society and representatives of French nongovernmental organizations active in Russia in the area of the rule of law.

He has also met with representatives of French companies operating in Russia.

The Russian-French relations are intensive in the political, cultural and economic spheres. There are frequent bilateral meetings at the highest level. The two Presidents met on June 6 at the G8 summit in Heiligendamm; 2009 will be the Year of France in Russia and 2010 the Year of Russia in France. Lastly, trade between the two countries increased by 40% in 2006 and 35% in the first six months of 2007. French companies, in particular Total, EADS, Safran and Alstom, are increasing their presence on the Russian market, especially in the energy and aeronautical sectors.


Irina Fomina


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