Oleg Artyukov: Russia’s president travels to France

A blitz visit of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to France is scheduled for September 15. The visit has been initiated by France’s President Jacque Chirac. Observers say that by this visit, President Putin concludes a so-called series of his recent informal meetings. A visit to George Bush’s ranch in Texas was the first visit in the series, which was then followed by a meeting with Gerhard Schroeder and his wife in Hanover and a conversation with British Prime Minster Anthony Blair. Now, Vladimir Putin is expected in Palais de L'Elysee.

It should be mentioned that after the election of Vladimir Putin to the presidential post, relations between Russia and France have not been the best. Paris fiercely criticized Russia’s authorities for Russia's war in Chechnya. However, after the G-8 summit in Okinawa, relations between the two presidents have improved. This was also confirmed by the exchange of their visits.

Now, there will be a new meeting. Certainly, relations between Russia and France have entered a new stage. After the Sept.11 terrorist attacks, both states share opinions on the problem of international politics, the struggle with terrorism particularly. At least, France’s authorities show more understanding of the anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya.

RIA Novosti news agency informs that problems of international security and relations between Russia and the European Union are to be discussed during the visit. The situation in the crisis regions of Europe and Asia are also to be touched upon. The presidents will discuss the anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan, strained relations between India and Pakistan, and the situation in the Balkans and Macedonia. France supports the initiative of closer relations between Russia and the European Union and NATO as well. Cooperation between Russia and NATO in the “19+1” format (or “20” format) will be discussed during Putin’s visit to Paris. It is important that it was France’s initiative to discuss close cooperation between the Russian Federation and the European Union in the military and political spheres. The terrorist acts in the USA and apprehensions of an influential unification between Russia and the USA that would exert great influence on the settlement of the world problems made for such a decision.

In any case, all European politicians now understand that Russia’s participation is important for the settlement of all international problems, the struggle with terrorism or European security for example.

The problems of economic cooperation will not be neglected by the presidents during the meeting. Particularly, France may push for Russia’s entry into the WTO. France is the largest exporter of agricultural products; its position will influence the EU’s opinion about Russia’s entry into WTO. In addition, the development of bipartite economic relations is still urgent. Deputy Director of the Kremlin administration Prikhodko says that President Putin will discuss the economic growth and investment attractiveness of the country. In his words, the development of economic cooperation and interaction in high-tech spheres, the aviation and space industries, particularly, are still top-priority economic problems.

Therefore, the range of problems is rather wide. Some observers say that it will be difficult for Jacque Chirac to concentrate on the meeting with President Putin, because he has been involved in another scandal recently. Polit.ru site informs that, this time, France’s president is accused of the ransom of eight French hostages captured by Hezbollah terrorist organization in 1987 and 1988, when Jacque Chirac was France’s prime minister. In addition, the president is also accused of creating illegal financial funds and the use of the situation for his own political interests.

However, President Chirac has already managed to get out of such situations with honor, and, although the accusations may affect the coming presidential elections, successful talks with President Putin are more likely to improve the situation regarding the scandal.

Oleg Artyukov PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Maria Gousseva

Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/01/15/35571.html

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