The negotiations were held in a restricted format. At first Mr Putin and Mr Chirac met each other one on one. Then Foreign Ministers Igor Ivanov and Hubert Vedrine joined them. Sergei Prikhodko, deputy head of the Presidential Executive Office, also took part in the meeting on the Russian side.
As Mr Chirac told journalists at the end of the talks, the French side had proposed that a French-Russian Security Council be established at the level of foreign and defence ministers. Mr Putin supported the initiative, stressing that the Council could become a good instrument to supplement Russia’s relations both with NATO and emerging structures of European security.
At the same time, Mr Putin noted that a gap existed between the high level of Russian-French political relations and their economic cooperation. He suggested that the two countries cooperate more closely in energy and high technologies, including aircraft building and space. He also recalled the experience of a number of French firms that participated in developing Russian gas deposits.
The Presidents paid a lot of attention to issues of international security and the fight against terrorism. Mr Chirac thanked Mr Putin for the assistance Russia rendered it in operations to deploy a French contingent in Afghanistan as part of an international security force.
Relations between Russia and the European Union and their strengthening were also at the focus of attention. Mr Putin said he highly valued Mr Chirac’s initiatives aimed to bring Russia and the European Union together, particularly to recognise Russia’s status as a global EU partner. Russia was interested in the early establishment of common economic, cultural and educational spaces, as well as a common security space in Europe, he noted.
In replying to a question about a certain scepticism existing in some Western countries concerning prospects for Russia-NATO cooperation, Mr Putin pointed out that caution in the relationship had appeared decades previously when the systems confronted each other. Not many understand the nature of today’s events when the world has changed so drastically that a new security configuration is required involving all leading European countries and uniting all humankind in the face of new threats, Mr Putin emphasised.
President Putin also replied to a question about the situation in the Chechen Republic. There must be no double standards in the fight against terrorism, the President said, recalling that the criminal regime in Chechnya had been responsible for the violent deaths of many thousands of civilians.
In turn, Mr Chirac emphasized that France had condemned both terrorist acts carried out in Moscow three years previously and Chechen terrorists’ ties with Osama bin Laden’s criminal organisation Al-Qaeda. At the same time the French President noted that a deeper political dialogue and cooperation between the Russian authorities, on the one hand, and the Council of Europe and OSCE, on the other, were necessary to solve the Chechen problem.
In replying to other questions, Mr Putin also touched upon the situation surrounding the TV-6 television company, the case of Grigory Pasko who was convicted of spying, and the case of Russian citizen Natalia Zakharova, separated from her daughter by a French court decision.