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Paris Sees Talks On Russia-EU Pact In October

French Prime Minister Fillon
SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) -- French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has said talks on a Russia-EU pact, postponed after Russia's invasion in Georgia, could resume in early October.

"The EU position is clear: We hope the talks will resume as soon as the provisions of the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan are carried out," Fillon told a news conference after talks with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Under a plan agreed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Russia agreed to withdraw its forces from undisputed Georgian territories soon after the European Union deploys monitors there.

"There are no reasons not to resume talks early next month," Fillon said.

Russia launched a counterattack by land, sea, and air last month when Georgian forces tried to retake the Moscow-backed breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Western states condemned Russia's actions as disproportionate, and Moscow's relations with the West soured.

European Union leaders agreed at an emergency summit on September 1 to postpone talks with Russia on a new partnership pact, which had been due to take place in the middle of this month.

The pact is due to regulate relations in the energy sector and on trade. The EU struggled for 18 months to agree its own mandate for talks which finally started in July.

Unblocking talks with EU is important in Russia's attempts to resist calls by the United States, Tbilisi's main backer, to form a united front with the EU to put joint pressure on Moscow.

French Pursue Energy Interests

Russia and France have put aside disagreements over the August war in Georgia in a move to promote bilateral relations, especially in key energy projects, judging by Fillon's statements in Sochi.

"We will conduct with Russia a direct and tight dialogue of true partners," Fillon said at the opening the regular meeting of an intergovernmental commission that brought him to the Black Sea resort.

The final document of the meeting said the two countries will focus on developing relations in the high-tech, energy, and space sectors, including cooperation in developing the Shtokman gas field and a joint project to launch Soyuz spacecrafts from a French launching pad.

"Differences happen, indeed, but they should be resolved through a dialogue," he told the gathering of government officials and businessmen co-chaired by Putin.

Fillon's remarks highlighted the differences within the EU -- some members, like France, Germany, and Italy, urge caution in handling Russia, while others, mainly former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe, want tougher action.

Analysts say the new rift with the West over Georgia have scared investors, adding to Moscow's financial woes in the face of recent global stock market turmoil.

Putin said relations with France were not affected by the Georgian crisis.

"I believe the events in the Caucasus did not affect our cooperation in any way," Putin said.

No projects have been put off or suspended between France and Russia in the wake of the Georgia conflict.

Russia, which has recognized the independence of Georgia's breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, said it will set up military bases there and told the West to negotiate the presence of international monitors with their leaders.