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2 Mar, 2010 08:49

Nikolas Sarkozy and Dmitry Medvedev find lots of reason to smile in Paris

France remains a priority partner for Russia, and cooperation between the two is impossible without strong economic ties, Medvedev told French business leaders in Paris.

The Russian president noted that over the course of the last several years, the trade turnover between the two countries has grown fivefold. Perhaps more importantly, Russia has accumulated a large amount of French investments, exceeding 10 billion dollars, of which more than half that amount is in the processing industry.

Dmitry Medvedev also stressed the importance of contracts in banking and the energy sector.

“This year we mark the 35th anniversary of our gas cooperation. We’ve gone a long way from simple gas deliveries – and this is about 10 billion cubic meters – to joined programs in the European Union and other countries,” Medvedev said, adding that the current priority is Nord Stream and South Stream projects.

Medvedev expressed hope that partnering with France would provide yet another avenue of escape for Russia from its “resource curse,” that is, its over-reliance on the gas and oil sector, and further modernize the Russian economy with a vast arsenal of state-of-the-art technologies and practices.

President Medvedev then extended an invitation to French businessmen to visit Russia in the summer for an economic forum St. Petersburg.

He also expressed hope that 2010, which happens to be the Year of France in Russia and the Year of Russia in France, will provide additional incentive for closer economic and cultural ties between the two nations.

When asked by a businessman about the flaws of the current legal system, Medvedev said he also thought the issue was a key part of Russia’s modernization strategy. “I am not pleased with what we have for the moment,” admitted Medvedev. “But I think that the steps we are taking are in the right direction.”

He also noted that he plans to head the process of revamping the court system himself.

Towards the end of the briefing, Medvedev invited the French delegates to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics and said he was counting on better performances both from the Russian and French teams.

RT’s political commentator Peter Lavelle added that in political terms France is one of Russia’s closest and consistent allies.

“Yesterday Sarkozy said, ‘The cold war is over.’ That’s a remarkable statement,” Lavelle said. “It’s a big statement after what we have had to go through with the Georgia case in 2008. It is really interesting. It is France that is changing, not Russia. Russia had changed.”