Russia wants to improve energy cooperation with France and EU
Russia, one of the world's biggest oil and gas producers, wants to improve energy cooperation with both France and
the European Union, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said. "We have attractive prospects for cooperation in
energy matters," Kasyanov said after talks with French President Jacques Chirac in Paris.
"Experts say that between now and 2020, the energy needs of European Union countries are going to double, and it's only thanks to Russia that this demand can be met," the Russian prime minister said. "This shows how useful and important our cooperation is," he added.
Chirac, through his spokeswoman Catherine Colonna, said he hoped to develop "a strong relationship between France and
Russia, one that is even more ambitious than what exists today." Kasyanov said positive bilateral cooperation in the
high technology, aviation and telecommunications sectors could spark better ties on a number of other issues in the
Chirac is expected to visit Russia for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Black Sea resort of Sochi. The French president and Kasyanov also discussed agricultural issues, Moscow's bid to join the World Trade Organization and the thorny status of Russia's Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad.
Some 1 mm Russians live in the territory, which is cut off from the rest of Russia by Poland and Lithuania, both of
which are expected to join the European Union in 2004. Their future EU membership has created a stumbling block in
EU-Russian relations, as Russians travelling between continental Russia and Kaliningrad would need visas.
The EU has suggested giving special status to Kaliningrad residents that would allow them to move around, but this has been rejected by Moscow. Kasyanov urged Chirac to work toward a "good compromise" on the issue, according to Colonna, who said the French leader recognized the visa row was a "difficult question" and hoped to find a "pragmatic solution".
Earlier, the two leaders expressed their condolences after the deadly mid-air collision of a passenger plane and a cargo jet over southern Germany that left 71 people dead, most of them top Russian students going on holiday.