Vladimir Putin: It gives me great satisfaction to say that today’s talks with President Chirac and other French leaders were friendly and outspoken. We had one goal – to give Russian-French partnership a new impetus and bring it back its preferential status.
Russians have loved France for centuries. We have never doubted that the exceptional potential of our bilateral relations will not only survive but grow over time because, in certain fields, French-Russian contacts have unrivalled importance. The French President highlighted our two countries’ very close and, occasionally identical, positions on many essential aspects of international security.
I told President Chirac about the interest with which the Russian people met his address to the Millennium Summit in New York, where he called to regulate globalisation, with its pros and cons. Some of its aspects arouse justified concern. His ideas are consonant with ours. We will join hands with France and our other partners to tackle challenges presented by globalisation.
We confirmed out stances on preserving the 1972 ABM Treaty. Both countries firmly believe that it takes political and diplomatic tools to prevent missile and missile-related technology proliferation. There is every condition for such efforts today. Russian proposals for global non-proliferation control provide an alternative to national ABM systems.
Our proposals of broad international partnership for non-strategic missile defence systems remain topical.
We also discussed the Middle East, and our coordinated efforts in the Balkans. Here, too, we share many opinions.
Bilateral relations also reveal the great degree of accord between Russia and France. We have scheduled meetings between experts and the Russian Prime Minister’s visit to Paris for the end of the year. I don’t think leaders’ goodwill is enough. It takes an inventive pioneer spirit to give up outdated and ineffective partnership patterns for more dynamic and flexible instruments that would promote the Russian and French business in each other’s markets, and spur on long-term investments and industrial integration. These issues will lead the agenda of the December meetings in Paris.
The negotiations confirmed the bright future of Russian-French relations, and proved again that France was Russia’s strong and reliable partner in the cause of international peace and security. No doubt, Russian-French partnership promotes both countries’ interests. Thank you.
Question: Does your statement mean the cold spell in Russian-French relations has been overcome? And another question: Did you discuss the issue of Russian national Zakharova and, if so, in what aspect?
Vladimir Putin: If I am to consider your first question in the light of today’s talks, I would say I am not sure whether there was such a cold spell at all.
President Chirac and I discussed Zakharova’s and her daughter’s predicament. Mr Chirac understands our concern. We hope such complicated personal problems as theirs will remain within universally recognised international legal norms. Courts’ verdicts occasionally forbid, let say, speaking one’s native tongue or professing the family’s religion. Such decisions are questionable, to put it mildly, and we hope they will be challenged.
However, court verdicts and the opinions of the French President, other officials and executive bodies are different things. We rely on French public support and, of course, on President Chirac to settle the controversy.
Question: Do you expect Russia to get close enough to France and the European Union to shift from the dollar to the euro for its economic yardstick?
Vladimir Putin: Russia is situated in Europe, and we never forget that. We have far-reaching programmes of partnership with the European Union. Some of our long-term plans to step up that partnership came under discussion today. If Russia regards Europe as one of its principal partners, it is interested in finances and all other aspects of the European economy making good progress. Russia will certainly do what it can to buttress the euro. Our Government has drawn plans on that score, and we will work together with the European Union, and coordinate our plans in that sphere.
Question: Did Chechnya come up for discussion? If it was, what conclusion did you make?
Vladimir Putin (in addition to Jacques Chirac’s answer): Please allow me to repeat what I said at my latest news conference: any attempts to cooperate with extremists of any kind, including Muslim extremists, are taken by these extremists as a sign of weakness. Such attempts are absolutely counter-productive. In this context, all who value tolerance and equality of religions, nations and people of all ethnic backgrounds must unite against all forms of extremism.
Question: Insurance of exports to Russia was suspended after its 1998 economic crisis. Did the possibility of resuming it come up during the talks?
Vladimir Putin: There was no direct discussion on this subject, but we all know it will be necessary to address the matter when the Russian Prime Minister visits Paris in December. Russian and French leaders and experts keep an eye on it, and experts are studying the issue. I’m sure it will be settled eventually.
Question: What is the Russian attitude to Middle Eastern conflict settlement? What does Russia intend to do?
Vladimir Putin: You know Russia’s principled position on Palestinian self-determination. Russia has no problems here. We have an embassy in Palestine, and we recognise the Palestinian people’s right of self-determination up to its own statehood. We have occupied that position for a long time and never changed it. That is a matter of principle.
As we see it, all-round efforts must urgently start if we want to see any progress. The developments of the preceding days and weeks proved this point. Palestinian settlement concerns the neighbouring states, as well. We also believe it necessary to extend the mediation basis. This is a job for Russia as a co-sponsor in the settlement process, and for the European Union. France and the entire European Union have national interests in the region. We respect those interests, and we think we need to work in that direction if we really want to achieve anything in practice. To put an end to violence is a top priority for today.