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Putin, Sarkozy set to boost economic ties

Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are due to hold talks in a bid to boost bilateral economic ties during the French leader’s two-day visit to Moscow, the Kremlin said on Tuesday.

Sarkozy, who last visited Moscow as finance minister in 2004, is to arrive in Moscow on Tuesday. It will be his first visit to Russia in the role of French president. Putin and Sarkozy will have an informal dinner later on Tuesday, and hold bilateral negotiations in the Kremlin on Wednesday. Presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko said the two leaders would focus on joint investment projects, as energy supplies make up the vast majority of Russia’s exports to France.

“Large projects also include the launch of Russian Soyuz booster rockets from the Kourou space center [Guiana Space Centre], the production of a Superjet 100 regional aircraft, projects to turn A320 and A321 passenger jets into cargo planes, and cooperation in the construction of highways and railways,” Prikhodko said. The presidential aide also said that Russia supported the carmaker Renault’s plans to double output in Russia, and that Peugeot Citroen was currently looking for a site in the country. Prikhodko pointed to a growing trade between the two countries, which increased 13.9% to $6.8 billion in the H1 of 2007. The official said that, despite their apparent rivalry in the field, the two countries were also interested in nuclear power cooperation.

The international agenda of the coming bilateral talks will include the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, U.S. missile defense plans, the situation in the Middle East, Iraq, the Iranian nuclear program, and a Russia-EU summit to be held in Portugal later this month. “We would like to learn Sarkozy’s opinion regarding the future of relations between Russia and the European Union, taking into account France’s EU chairmanship in the latter half of 2008,” Prikhodko said, adding that as a founder of the EU, France could do much more than any other member of the organization for a new Russia-EU strategic agreement yet to be discussed between Moscow and Brussels.

Putin and Sarkozy will also attend the opening of a monument to the French squadron Normandie-Niemen at Lefortovo Park in south-east Moscow. A similar memorial was unveiled at Le Bourget near Paris when Putin visited France in 2005. (rian.ru)