‘Time has come’: French ministers urge easing of tensions with Russia during key meeting in Moscow

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In a landmark meeting of top French and Russian ministers, Paris has signaled it wants to patch up relations with Moscow to ensure European security, as the alternative only risks greater trouble.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defense Minister Florence Parly met with their Russian counterparts in Moscow on Monday, something that has not happened for the past seven years.

During the summit, Le Drian conveyed that he wanted to ease tensions with Russia, not only for the sake of improving bilateral ties, but also to guarantee European security.

The time has come, the time is right, to work towards reducing distrust

He added that Europe will never be safe without “clear and strong relations” with its eastern neighbor. Hence, Paris desires a “new agenda of trust and security” with Russia.

A similar sentiment was echoed by the French defense minister, who said that “it is important to talk to each other, to avoid misunderstanding and friction,” while acknowledging that “it’s not going to be an easy road ahead.” It also includes the matter of EU sanctions on Moscow, which won’t be lifted for now, according to the French side.

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That said, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed his agreement, stating that rebuilding ties between the two nations is both “possible and necessary.”

The 2+2 format marks the first time since 2012 that the French and Russian ministers have held joint discussions. The last time they met in Paris.

The gathering is just the latest sign that Paris is looking to reboot relations with Moscow. In August, French President Emmanuel Macron called for a “new architecture of security and confidence” between the EU and Russia, and said Moscow is “essential” in solving the crises in Iran, Ukraine, and Syria, and to the ongoing work on nuclear non-proliferation.

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Relations between France and Russia soured in 2014 after the EU was pressured by Washington to impose sanctions on Moscow, following the coup in Ukraine and Crimea’s reunification with Russia. The latter’s retaliatory decision to ban food imports from Europe jolted France’s agricultural industry. 

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