French President Sarkozy to Make First Visit to Moscow

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was set to make his first visit to Moscow, October 9-10, amid continuing political tension and disagreement between Russia and France, RIA-Novosti reported Monday.

However, Thomas Gomart, an analyst with the French Institute of International Relations, said that France will seek to develop ties with Russia, despite differences between Paris and Moscow.

"Despite the harsh rhetoric, Paris will continue to invest in Russia and develop cooperation on issues of international importance," he said.

Gomart agreed though that Sarkozy's victory in the presidential elections spelled a downturn in France-Russia relations.

"Paris' tone has become much more critical," he said, adding that this concerned both Russia's domestic and foreign policies.

One of the most acute differences in policy outlook has been the recent issue of the Serbian province of Kosovo. Paris favors granting the province independence, while Moscow said that giving Kosovo sovereignty would violate Serbia's territorial integrity and set a precedent for other breakaway regions, including those in the former Soviet Union.

Another point of tension has been Iran. The United States and France have urged tougher penalties for the Islamic Republic, suspected of pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program, while Russia is against the immediate imposition of new sanctions.

In an interview before becoming president in May 2007, Sarkozy said, "If you asked me which of the [two] countries France would have closer relations with - the United States or Russia, known to us for its Chechen war, -'the U.S.' would be my answer."

Speaking before a group of French ambassadors, the French president recently said "Russia is imposing its return to the international arena, brutally using its trump cards, such as gas and oil."

During his recent visit to Bulgaria, Sarkozy called Russia a country that "complicates the resolution of major world problems."

However, at his first meeting with the new French leader at the G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, Putin received a hearty greeting. Sarkozy characterized the Russian leader as a politician who was "open for dialogue."

Sarkozy, 52, a former interior minister, known for heavy-handed policies on security and migration, was elected French president on May 6, 2007, after defeating the Socialist Party leader, Segolene Royal, in the presidential runoff.

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