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Putin, Hollande to hold talks in Paris this week
June 3, 2014, 5:21 am

File photo of French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris [AP]

File photo of French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris [AP]

Russian President Vladimir Putin will be holding bilateral talks with his French counterpart Francois Hollande this week in Paris.

Putin and Hollande had a telephone conversation last week discussing the Ukraine crisis and preparations for Putin’s visit.

Putin “noted the need for an immediate end to the violence and bloodshed by Kiev authorities and the launch of a direct dialogue between Kiev and representatives from southeastern Ukraine’, said a Kremlin statement.

The French government is under pressure from the US as well as within the EU to reconsider a $1.6 billion deal to deliver two Mistral-class warships to the Russian Navy.

Top US lawmakers have sent a letter to the NATO chief last week saying France should sell the helicopter carrier ships to NATO instead.

The first French Mistral-class amphibious assault ship, named Vladivostok, capable of deploying helicopters and tanks, was due to arrive in Russia by the year-end under a June 2011 contract signed between Russia and France.

A second Mistral-class warship, the Sevastopol, is due to arrive in 2015 and become part of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquartered in Crimea.

Putin will begin his France visit on June 5 and is also participating in celebratory events in Normandy on June 6, honouring the 70th anniversary of the Allied landing, said the Kremlin statement.

The French President will also be hosting US President Barack Obama on the same day. Officials have ruled out a Obama-Putin meet on June 6 during the celebrations but the world’s two most powerful leaders are likely to cross paths.

Moscow is battling economic sanctions imposed by EU and US governments after being accused of “meddling” in the affairs of Ukraine.

US President Obama is slated to meet Ukraine’s President-elect Petro Poroshenko during his France trip and is also likely to step up pressure on EU leaders to isolate Putin.

Meanwhile, France is enraged over what an editorial in a leading French daily Le Monde said was “a masterful slap” by the US – reports of a $10 billion US fine against France’s largest bank BNP Paribas SA (BNP) for its alleged dealings with Iran and other sanctioned nations.

Hollande is likely to raise the issue with Obama this week in Paris even as the US President urges more strident measures against Russia.



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