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French firms seal Russian contracts during Sarkozy visit

Video by Douglas HERBERT

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2010-06-19

French President Nicolas Sarkozy appealed Saturday for closer ties between Europe and Russia as he oversaw the signing of a raft of commercial contracts with his Russian counterpart in Saint Petersburg.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on Europe and Russia to intensify their cooperation during a visit to the Saint Petersburg economic forum on Saturday, in which he hoped to bolster the presence of French companies in the Russian market.

President Sarkozy met his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, on the sidelines of the event before the official signing of a score of commercial agreements between the two countries—most of which have been in the works for months.

With Sarkozy and Medvedev looking on, French utility EDF signed a memorandum to take about 10 percent in the Russian-backed South Stream pipeline to pump Russian gas to Europe across the Black Sea.
   
They will join existing shareholders Russia's Gazprom and Italy's Eni. Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller said it was not planned that EDF's stake would come from the Russian company.
   
Meanwhile, fellow utility GDF-Suez signed a similar memorandum to take a stake of about 10 percent in Nord Stream, a similar project to ship Russian gas to Europe through the Baltic.
   
Russian investment fund Hermitage signed a preliminary deal to build two skyscrapers 320 metres high in the modern La Defense quarter on the outskirts of Paris, in a deal worth two billion euros (2.5 billion dollars).

Strategic ties

"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 Russia’s most important business summit.

"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 relationship with Medvedev was strained during the Russo-Georgian crisis in the summer of 2008, also repeated his esteem for the Russian president.

"I want to express my trust in the words of President Medvedev, how much I appreciated being able to work with him even at times when we did not immediately agree," Sarkozy said.

Moments later the Russian leader returned the courtesy, praising the "special personal relationship" with his French counterpart.

Date created : 2010-06-19

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