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Putin meets with Sarkozy in Paris amid warship row

©

Video by Carla WESTERHEIDE

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-06-11

Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday during an official visit to Paris. On the table are the contentious terms of sale of high-tech French warships to Russia.

 

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin held talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Elysee Palace in Paris Friday. Putin also met with former French President Jacques Chirac and Christophe de Margerie, CEO of French oil giant Total.
 
Russia’s purchase from France of Mistral warships, which can carry 16 helicopters and a 750-strong landing force, dominated the talks and the media coverage.
 
The proposed sale to Russia has been criticised by Baltic nations and Georgia, with whom Russia entered into a swift, violent conflict in 2008. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who was in France Tuesday, did not exclude the possibility of Georgia, in turn, equipping itself with French defence weapons in response.
 
Stumbling blocks
 
The signing of the much-trailed contract between Russia and France has come up against some other serious obstacles, aside from international pressure. Moscow is insisting on the transfer of technology, and after having bought the first French ship, would like to build the rest on Russian soil.
 
Paris has refused this condition, and has stipulated that construction takes place in France.
 
"The world is going through a difficult time and we have to stand together to remain competitive," Putin said while standing alongside Fillon at the opening of a Franco-Russian cooperation exhibition in Paris’s Grand Palais on Friday.
  
"In scientific and technological areas, we must unite our efforts," he said before heading to the Elysee palace for talks and lunch with Sarkozy.
 
Russian Industry Minister Viktor Khristenko reiterated the same point in less diplomatic language, saying, "For us, the most important thing is to buy technology. That is the future".
 
Before leaving for Paris, Putin had said that the signature of the contract would depend on France accepting to transfer technology to Russia.
 
Importat relationship for French industry
 
The sale of the Mistral would be the latest in a long series of juicy contracts signed in November 2009 and March 2010 during the most recent visits to France by Russian leaders.
 
French conglomerate Alstom had negotiated its share of Russian locomotive manufacturer Transmashholding;
 
France’s energy companies EDF and GDF-Suez are in negotiations to participate in projects involving Russian pipelines North Stream and South Stream, at the expense of participation in the European project, Nabucco.
 
But the warming economic relations between the two countries are not necessarily appreciated by French human rights associations, which fear that their concerns will be relegated to non-priority status.
 
Human rights vs commercial interests?
 
“The situation in Russia is alarming”, Geneviève Garrigos, president of Amnesty International in France, said. “It would be shocking for France to not bring up the growing climate of repression in Russia during this visit”, she added.
 
Russia is the member country of the Council of Europe that has been most frequently condemned by the European Court of Human Rights.
 

Putin brushed the stinging criticism aside Monday in an interview with French news agency AFP: "[Human rights] violations exist everywhere. We could take, for example, the human rights violations in the French prison system”.

 

Date created : 2010-06-11

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