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MOSCOW, June 20. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is due to hold talks with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian in Moscow on Tuesday.
The French top diplomat’s visit to Russia will follow up on the agreements to step up bilateral cooperation reached during the talks between the two presidents in Versailles on May 29, 2017
"(The two ministers) will discuss joint steps to establish counterterrorism cooperation and exchange views on resolving the most pressing international problems, including the situation in Ukraine, Syria, Libya, the Sahara-Sahel region and the Middle East," the Russian Foreign Ministry said earlier. "The two top diplomats will also synchronize watches on the UN Security Council agenda, where France and Russia cooperate closely as its permanent members."
France is one of Russia’s leading partners in Europe and the world, the ministry noted. "The two countries have multifaceted cooperation in politics, economy, culture and humanitarian exchanges," the ministry said. "Of course, Paris’ involvement in the anti-Russian restrictive measures initiated by the European Union had an adverse effect on the dynamics of bilateral ties but did not change their traditionally friendly nature."
At the same time, "there is a common understanding of the need to more fully use the existing potential for the development of the Russian-French cooperation in a wide range of areas," the ministry said.
The resumption of work of the Russian-French Economic, Financial, Industrial and Trade Council (CEFIC) in January 2016 gave an important signal to businesses. Its latest meeting was held in Moscow on March 14, 2017. Trade ties between Russia and France are gradually restoring: in 2016 bilateral trade grew 14.1% to $13.3 bln, year-on-year. In the first quarter of 2017, the figure rose 23.7% to $3.3 bln.
The French investment in Russia has been steadily growing. Last year it increased by 43.9% to $14.4 bln from $10 bln. France is the seventh biggest investor in Russia’s economy. "The business circles of two countries express interest in overcoming the current negative tendencies linked to the EU sanctions pressure," the ministry said. "None of some 500 French companies has left Russia over the past three or four years and none of major joint projects has been rolled back."
"Great attention during the talks will be paid to the importance of maintaining high dynamics of bilateral cultural and humanitarian contacts, studying the conditions of involving there representatives of the civil society, including scientists, teachers, young people and students," the ministry said.
An agreement between the Russian and French governments on developing youth exchanges, which entered into force on May 1, and also the Russian-French Commission for cooperation in culture, education and youth exchanges, which has also resumed its work, will have a positive effect on joint activity in these areas.
The sides will also discuss prospects of implementing new initiatives, including the Year of the Russian and French languages and also literature (2018-2019).
Jean-Yves Le Drian is one of the most influential politicians in the French Socialist Party and one of the closest allies of the former President Francois Hollande. Le Drian served as the defense minister in Hollande’s government in 2012-2017. He became the only minister of Hollande’s government who continued working under new President Emmanuel Macron.