Chirac, Merkel, and Putin to talk Iran, economy

22nd September 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 21, 2006 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac was due Saturday to host his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel for a mini-summit focused on Iran and the Middle East as well as recent developments in the European aerospace and energy sectors.

PARIS, Sept 21, 2006 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac was due Saturday to host his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel for a mini-summit focused on Iran and the Middle East as well as recent developments in the European aerospace and energy sectors.

After bilateral talks and a dinner at the Elysée Palace late Friday, Chirac and Putin were to join Merkel on Saturday at the Compiègne château north of Paris for a three-way summit followed by a joint press conference.

International negotiations over Tehran's nuclear programme — in which all three countries play a lead role — were set to top the agenda.

World powers agreed on Tuesday to allow more time to convince Iran to give up enrichment — which Washington suspects are a cover for a weapons programme — before seeking sanctions under a UN resolution.

According to a senior European diplomat, world powers handed Iran a new early October deadline to halt uranium enrichment to give the European Union more time to negotiate with Tehran.

On the economic front, meanwhile, Russia's role in European aerospace group EADS, following the acquisition of a 5.02-percent stake by Russian state-owned bank Vneshtorgbank, was expected to be at the centre of discussions.

Reports have suggested Putin could seek to negotiate veto powers for the bank as a minority shareholder during his Paris stay, prompting warnings from both the group and the French government that the EADS decision-making structure would remain unchanged.

The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company's founding shareholders are DaimlerChrysler of Germany, French media and technology group Lagardère and the French state, as well as Sepi of Spain.

In Moscow, however, the head of the Duma foreign affairs committee said Russia was waiting for Paris and Berlin to give "a signal to create equal conditions for investing in their economies", saying it was alone in "playing the game".

EADS recently acquired a 10-percent stake in Russian aerospace giant Irkut, while Airbus this week announced the sale of 22 jets to Russia's Aeroflot airline — reportedly thanks to pressure from Russian politicians who favoured Airbus over its US rival Boeing, which also clinched a 22-jet deal.

On energy questions, Putin and Merkel are set to discuss a planned 1,200-kilometre Russian-German gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea, which has drawn a barrage of protests from Poland and the three Baltic states.

Warsaw and its neighbours Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania have vowed to fight the development of the pipeline, which would deprive them of transit fees. They also say it would pose an environmental and security threat.

According to German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Merkel is at pains to reassure the four countries that Berlin-Moscow relations are not being developed at their expense.

The pipeline project, due to replace an existing eastern European gas pipeline, is to be built under agreement between Russian energy giant Gazprom and German companies BASF and E.ON, coming on-stream in 2010.

The EU, the world's second-largest energy market, is highly dependent on Moscow, importing around 30 percent of its natural gas needs from Russia.

It is especially keen to avoid a repeat of January's gas crisis, when Gazprom switched off its gas taps to Ukraine amid a price war, hitting some supplies in western Europe.

More broadly, the talks come amid an apparent drive by Moscow to assert control over the country's vast energy reserves and muscle out foreign energy majors in favour of state-backed Russian ones.

Russia is notably threatening to revoke a licence for French group Total to develop the Kharyaga oil field accusing it of excessive delays — one of a string of major international licences that face being cancelled.

And a third economic question scheduled for discussion is piracy — a major stumbling block in Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organisation — with France a key defender of intellectual property rights.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

 


 

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