France sees early end to EU visas for Russians
France on Friday said there were "good reasons" to expect European Union nations to drop their visa requirements for Russian tourists by the end of the year.
Russia has made the removal of so-called Schengen Agreement restrictions one of the planks of its EU negotiations and is also pushing for a mutual removal of visas with the United States.
Visiting French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said a final agreement with Europe was now within reach.
"Only a few more pushes by both sides, and then there are good reasons to believe that we will achieve it by the end of the year," Juppe said following talks with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
Several European nations including the three former Soviet Baltic states fear Russia's unrestricted access to the Schengen zone could lead to laxer common border controls.
Russia has acknowledged that separate negotiations with the United States were only in their early discussion stages.
© 2011 AFP