Russia seeks closer EU defence ties, says France

21st January 2005, Comments 0 comments

MOSCOW, Jan 21 (AFP) - Russia wants closer ties to the European Union, especially on defence issues, while France supports this goal and will try help attain it, two top French officials said here Friday.

MOSCOW, Jan 21 (AFP) - Russia wants closer ties to the European Union, especially on defence issues, while France supports this goal and will try help attain it, two top French officials said here Friday.

"It appears that there is on both sides an obvious desire for rapprochement between Russia and the European Union," French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told reporters after she and French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier met Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"Geographic proximity, along with a certain number of challenges that we are confronting, make us desire this rapprochement," she said.

Prior to meeting Putin, Alliot-Marie and Barnier held talks with their Russian counterparts, Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and the French foreign minister afterwards also voiced backing for Russia's aim of strengthening relations with the EU.

"We want to find the best way to develop this association between Russia and the common European security and defence policy," Barnier said.

Members of the French delegation said Russian officials had voiced regret that there was not a single clear channel for discussing security and defence issues with the European Union as there was for talking to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

"We naturally explained that European security policy, the European Union, is not the same and can't be compared to NATO," Barnier said.

"It's not the same organisation. I think this approach was understood today," Barnier said, adding: "We are persuaded that we will find a solution for this operational partnership, including to plan and carry out operations together."

Both the French and Russian officials said their discussions had also touched on other key international issues of the moment, including the fight against terrorism, suspect nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea and the Middle East situation.

Putin said Russia placed "particular importance" on developing relations with France.

"Our viewpoints on development of the situation in the world coincide to a high degree," the Russian leader said. "That is why the activity of our defence and foreign affairs ministers, the coordination of efforts to achieve shared goals, is extremely important."

© AFP

Subject: French News

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