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France To Host Russian Defense And Foreign Ministers For Talks

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (left) and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (file photo)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (left) and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (file photo)

Senior French officials will host the Russian foreign and defense ministers for talks in Paris on November 12 on Ukraine, Russia's activities in West Africa, and the Iranian nuclear program, the French government announced on November 9.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defense Minister Florence Parly will meet their Russian counterparts Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu on the sidelines of a conference on Libya, a French statement said.

The meeting will be the first in the so-called "2+2" format of foreign and defense ministers since last year's poisoning of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny brought relations between Russia and the West to a new low.

France canceled a similar meeting it was due to host with Lavrov and Shoigu in September last year in the aftermath of the poisoning.

Western countries accused Moscow of using a nerve agent to try to kill Navalny, and the European Union imposed sanctions on Russian officials following the incident.

Navalny and his supporters say the poisoning was carried out by Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) operatives at the behest of President Vladimir Putin in retribution for Navalny’s political activities. The Kremlin has denied any role in the incident.

Navalny was subsequently imprisoned earlier this year on charges that he and his supporters say are politically motivated.

However, French President Emmanuel Macron has long sought a dialogue with Putin, considering it unwise to shun Russia in the international arena.

"This meeting is part of the demanding dialogue that France continues with Russia," the statement from the French foreign and defense ministries said.

It said that the French ministers would notably raise concerns over Russian actions in Africa, where observers say Russian mercenaries are operating in an area where French troops are also deployed.

Based on reporting by AFP and TASS

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