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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Paris Moves to Increase Business With Moscow

APPresident Vladimir Putin greeting French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin on Monday in the Kremlin.
President Vladimir Putin told French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin on Monday that Moscow could pay some of its $41 billion Soviet-era debt early and lamented lagging economic cooperation between their two countries.

"I am pleased to say that our relations with France are developing intensively," Putin said. "We are dissatisfied with the level of trade and economic relations, though here too we've seen some progress."

He added that trade between the countries had grown 33 percent over the past six months.

Raffarin acknowledged that France was "a little behind" its European partners in terms of economic ties with Russia. "We want to be able to harmonize the quality of our political relations and the quality of economic development," he told Putin.

"Russia would be ready to make a number of payments to the Paris Club of former Soviet Union debt as early as this year ... in order to create a favorable atmosphere in our interactions," Putin said.

Putin stressed the importance of Moscow's political relations with Paris, calling France "a long-standing partner in the UN Security Council."

Raffarin, accompanied by several executives of leading French companies, met earlier with Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov and attended a seminar on French business involvement in Russian regions.

"We want to develop our cooperation with the Russian Federation on three fronts -- the state, business and the regions," Raffarin said.

Raffarin and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov were expected later to discuss French involvement in Russia's energy sector and other energy issues.

French power giant Electricite de France and Vladimir Potanin's holding company Interros on Monday signed a memorandum on collaboration in Russia's electricity sector. Among other spheres of cooperation, the two sides plan to jointly participate in a tender to manage the Northwest power station and other generating assets belonging to Unified Energy Systems.

The prime ministers also discussed a year-old deal on European aircraft manufacturers ordering components from Russian companies.

French engine maker Snecma Moteurs and its Russian counterpart NPO Saturn on Monday agreed to develop a new generation engine for new warplanes, including unmanned combat aerial vehicles.

The memorandum of understanding to develop an engine was also signed by fighter maker Sukhoi and state arms agency Rosoboronexport. The companies are currently working together on the development of the SM-146 engine for new Russian Regional Jet jointly being developed by Sukhoi and Boeing.

Top executives of Gazprom and Gaz de France also met in Moscow to discuss cooperating in the development of European gas infrastructure and Russian natural gas supplies to Europe, Gazprom press service said.

Other issues of possible cooperation that were discussed included the construction of the multi-billion-dollar Northern European pipeline under the Baltic Sea, and the development of the liquefied natural gas market.

Also on the agenda was Aeroflot's participation in Air France/KLM's air alliance. (MT, AP)