Russia, France and Germany talk security at seaside summit
Russian President Dimitry Medvedev discussed European security Tuesday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel amid renewed violence in Chechnya.
The three leaders were in the French resort of Deauville for talks on a new European security partnership as news broke that alleged Chechen separatists had attempted to storm the parliament in the southern Russian republic.
There was no immediate reaction from the Russian party to the news, but a news conference was planned later in the day. Reporters were also keen to know whether Medvedev had accepted an invitation to next month's NATO summit.
Medvedev and Sarkozy were expected to face questions on whether they had agreed a deal for France to sell Russia four modern warships, a potential contract that has raised concerns among some of Paris' allies.
The Deauville talks were not expected to lead to any other major announcements but, two decades after the end of the Cold War, they have been billed as a step towards a new pan-European security partnership.
Supporters of the plan -- which has been endorsed in various forms by all three leaders in the past -- hope to welcome Moscow into the Euro-Atlantic community and build a common defence from "Vancouver to Vladivostok".
"We will discuss whether it is possible for Russia and NATO to cooperate better, because the era of the Cold War is definitely over," Merkel said on Saturday in her weekly video message.
"The Russian president has proposed a common security architecture. He is working step-by-step to define this architecture -- of course in a spirit of partnership of all European countries with Russia," she said.
A senior official at Sarkozy's Elysee Palace said: "It'll be a kind of brainstorming session, to get to the bottom of thoughts and second thoughts.
"Russia seems to be looking more and more towards the West, and Deauville will be a chance to reinforce this development, which we see as positive."
French officials cite the examples of Russia's signing a new nuclear arms reduction treaty with the United States, its cooperation on the Afghan crisis and its "scrupulous" application of the latest sanctions against Iran.
Some NATO allies, in particular the former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe, are suspicious of their neighbour, pointing to the 2008 war in Georgia.
British ties with Russia were strained by its refusal to extradite a suspect in the murder in London of a former Russian agent and Washington fell out with Moscow over former US plans to site a missile defence system in Europe.
Medvedev's top foreign policy advisor confirmed that closer ties with NATO would be on the agenda in Deauville, including Russia's long-term goal of a formal new joint European security framework.
"Promoting Dmitry Medvedev's initiative -- the European security treaty -- is naturally of priority significance for us," Sergei Prikhodko told reporters at the Kremlin ahead of the summit.
But while Russia's ties with NATO as a whole have often been difficult, the Kremlin has proved adept at dealing directly one-on-one with European powers, in particular France and Germany.
NATO will unveil its new security concept next month at its summit in Lisbon, and Western leaders hope Medvedev will confirm in Deauville that he will attend the meeting and give his support to their vision.
© 2010 AFP