Russia, Europe must be strategic partners: Sarkozy
French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Saturday made an impassioned plea for Europe and Russia to work as strategic partners as he made a lightning visit to Saint Petersburg.
"I have the conviction that Europe and Russia must work together in a strategic way, very closely, in a relationship of confidence," Sarkozy said in a keynote speech at the close of the Saint Petersburg economic forum.
"The Cold War is over. The Wall is finished. Russia is a great power, we are neighbours, we are destined to be friends, we must come closer to each other," he added.
Sarkozy, whose half-day visit to Russia's second city was aimed at bolstering France's business presence in Russia and signing an array of deals, lavished praise on his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev.
The president said he had confidence in Medvedev's words and particularly appreciated his country's decision to back a new round of sanctions against Iran at the UN Security Council.
"Nothing would have been possible if he had not made and taken on this choice," said Sarkozy.
Sarkozy said after the speech that he had largely discarded his prepared remarks for delivery in favour of giving a more spontaneous address.
"For my trip to Saint Petersburg, for Dmitry, I thought it better to say what I think than what my administration thinks," he laughed.
Sarkozy, known for his speedy style of governance, quipped that there were not many differences between the two versions, "except what they (aides) want to do in 20 years I want in two months."
Medvedev and Sarkozy are expected later to agree on French utility Gaz de France taking a stake in the Russian-led South Stream pipeline to export Russian gas to Europe via the Black Sea.
Major deals are also expected for France to supply hundreds of trains for Russian railways and the purchase by Arianespace of 10 Russian Soyuz rockets.
However no deal is awaited on the long-mooted purchase by Russia of French Mistral-class assault ships, with negotiations stumbling over Moscow's demands for a transfer of technology.
The deal would be the first sale of advanced military hardware to Russia by a NATO country but Russia has still not ruled out sealing an accord with alternative partners.
© 2010 AFP