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France not seeking to isolate Russia, hopes for cooperation — top diplomat

Le Drian cited Moscow-Paris contacts on Syria as an example of Russian-French dialogue

PARIS, September 22. /TASS/. France is not seeking to isolate Russia and hopes for cooperation with Moscow, French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian said in an interview with Le Monde published on Friday.

"We don’t want Russia’s isolation, we want to cooperate," the minister said when asked about how relations between Paris and Moscow were affected by the Salisbury incident, in which the United Kingdom accuses Russia of poisoning former Russian intelligence officer and convicted British spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a nerve agent. The incident, the role in which Moscow has strongly denied, has led to the expulsion of Russian diplomats from many states.

"We need to develop demanding relations, to deepen the dialogue without making concessions over fundamental principles," the French top diplomat said.

Le Drian cited Moscow-Paris contacts on Syria as an example of Russian-French dialogue.

"As it is difficult to put Iran and the United States at the negotiating table, France and Russia ensure this link," he added. "This is the role that France plays, as the crisis in Idlib had demonstrated."

Idlib is the only Syrian province still controlled by illegal armed groups. In 2017, a de-escalation zone was established in the region, where militants reluctant to lay down their arms can move together with their families. According to United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, Idlib currently hosts about 10,000 militants from the Jabhat al-Nusra and Al-Qaeda terror groups (both outlawed in Russia).