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PARIS, November 26. /TASS/. France and Russia must go the way of partnership, French politician Patrice Gelard said when receiving a medal of honour awarded to him by the Russian Federation Council (parliament upper house) for his contribution to developing interparlimentary ties.
Russian Ambassador to France Alexander Orlov presented the award to the French politician in a ceremony on Tuesday evening.
The French legislator, who headed the Senate’s Group of Friendship with Russia for almost 20 years, said that visa-free travel could give a strong impetus to development of mutual contacts in all areas. He also noted the importance of efforts to promote the Russian language in France. It is needed for development of ties in culture and economy, Gelard said.
The legislator also said that about 900 French companies are represented on the Russian market, and the French community in Russia numbers more than 10,000 people.
He was supported by his colleague Aymeri de Montesquieu d'Artagnan, deputy head of the Senate’s commission for foreign affairs, defense and armament. The two countries should heed each other and build confidence, he said.
The parliamentarian said he hoped Paris would carry out the contract to deliver Mistral warships to Russia. France has some time to fulfill its obligations, he added.
Earlier on Tuesday, France's President Francois Hollande said delivery of the first of two Mistrals ordered by Russia was suspended, citing the current situation in eastern Ukraine.
The president considers that the situation in the east of Ukraine still does not permit the delivery of the first BPC (helicopter carrying and command vessel), said a statement from the presidential office.
"He has therefore decided that it is appropriate to suspend, until further notice, examination of the request for the necessary authorization to export the first BCP to the Russian Federation." the Elysee Palace statement said.
France has been under pressure for months from its Western allies to scrap the €1.2 billion contract, but faces potential compensation claims. Russia has repeatedly warned Paris of "serious consequences" unless France delivers the first of two helicopter carriers by the end of November.
The contract to deliver Mistrals for Russia's Navy was signed in June 2011. The first warship named Vladivostok was planned to be handed over to Russia in a ceremony on November 14, 2014. However, France postponed the delivery indefinitely. The second helicopter carrier named Sevastopol was launched on November 20.