Georgian president in France ahead of Putin’s visit
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was welcomed at the French presidential palace on Tuesday, just days before his nemesis, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, is due in Paris.
Georgia is alarmed by France’s plan to sell up to four warships to Russia capable of carrying 16 helicopters and a 750-strong landing force, the first sale of advanced military technology to Moscow by a NATO country.
President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni welcomed the Georgian presidential couple on their arrival at the Elysee palace and the first ladies held a one-on-one meeting while the leaders had talks.
Saakashvili was expected to raise his concerns about the sale of the Mistral-class assault ship to Moscow although Paris has repeatedly brushed aside worries from Georgia, the United States and the Baltics.
France has said the warships would be sold without sensitive equipment and argue that Russia must be treated like a partner and not a threat to European security.
Saakashivili is also seeking French support for Georgia’s bid for closer ties with the European Union and there will also be talks on economic cooperation.
Georgia and Russia fought a brief war in August 2008 that ended with a French-brokered truce, following shuttle diplomacy by Sarkozy.
Putin will arrive in Paris on Thursday to mark the end of the year of Russia in France, a cultural festival celebrating ties between the countries.
He will have a working lunch with Sarkozy at the Elysee on Friday.