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French, Russian Presidents Meet


Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) welcomes French President Francois Hollande at the Kremlin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) welcomes French President Francois Hollande at the Kremlin.
French President Francois Hollande and Russian President Vladimir Putin have met in Moscow.

The Kremlin had said the talks would focus on trade, as well as international issues.

At the start of talks, Hollande stressed the two countries' role in efforts to resolve international conflicts.

"I am here and this testifies to the quality of our relations," he said. "We know that these are relations that unite the two nations and they are historic. Relations are tight as we are two big countries, members of the Security Council, who have a responsibility to regulate international conflicts and to prevent threats, particularly of terrorism."

He also thanked Russia for its support of the French military intervention in Mali.

Putin said he hoped for increased economic cooperation. He said the two countries have every possibility to overcome a setback in bilateral trade in 2012, which was due to the global economic crisis.

Ahead of the talks, Hollande had said he would urge Putin to drop support for Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.

In an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio, Hollande said Russia's position was crucial in determining when peace could come to the Middle Eastern country and stressed his willingness to find a common language with Putin.

His talks with Putin come as representatives of dozens of nations are meeting with Syria's main opposition group in Rome to try to find ways to end the two-year-long conflict that, according to the United Nations, has claimed 70,000 lives.

In his interview, Hollande also said he would bring up rights issues but added that he "would not like to use any provocative approach."

Human Rights Watch had urged the French president in the run-up to the visit to press Putin on the rights situation in Russia.

It is Hollande's first official visit to Russia since he was elected president in May.

With reporting by Interfax, dpa, and AFP
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