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PARIS, November 23. /TASS/. Western countries have made a "virtual enemy" of Russia in recent years rejecting cooperation with Moscow, even though Russia poses no threat to the West, former French Prime Minister, Francois Fillon, who won the first round of the primaries held by the center-right The Republicans Party to nominate a presidential contender, said on Wednesday.
He noted that the current flare-up between Russia and the West began with the failure of the attempted "reset" in the Russian-US relations by the Obama administration. "Barack Obama, as you remember, began with the ‘reset’ strategy aimed at ironing out relations with Russia. However, later everything deteriorated, the West made an enemy of it (Russia) again, which is a virtual enemy, since I am confident that deep down Russia is not Europe’s enemy," he told the Europe 1 TV network.
Fillon noted that he had a productive experience cooperating with Russian President Vladimir Putin when both politicians served as the heads of government. "I worked with Vladimir Putin when he was the prime minister and reached multiple agreements, which were extremely favorable for France, because I constantly wrangled with him. He is a very difficult negotiator, but he is an interlocutor who respects those who are able to fulfill their obligations," he explained.
France’s ex-Prime Minister, Francois Fillon, earlier won the first important victory in a bid for the French presidency. On Sunday, he was the frontrunner in the first round of the primaries held by the center-right The Republicans Party to choose a presidential nominee.
Fillon, 62, chalked up the greatest number of votes - 44.1%, while Alain Juppe, Mayor of Bordeaux, managed to secure 28.3% of votes, and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy had 20.9% of votes.
The first round of the French presidential election will be held on April 23, 2017. Should no candidate win an outright majority, a run-off between the top two will be held on May 7, 2017.