France says ‘time has come’ to ease tensions with Russia
MOSCOW, Sept 9: France said on Monday that the time had come to start easing tensions with Russia as senior ministers held four-way talks in Moscow not seen since the crisis over Ukraine broke out.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said there was a "window of opportunity" for resolving the Ukraine conflict after a landmark prisoner exchange on Saturday, but that it was too soon to talk of lifting sanctions on Russia.
Le Drian and French Defence Minister Florence Parly were in Moscow for talks under the so-called "2+2" format that been suspended since Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
French President Emmanuel Macron has launched a diplomatic push for a detente in Europe's relations with Russia.
"The time has come, the time is right, to work towards reducing distrust," Le Drian told a press conference of the four ministers after the talks.
"We have come to suggest... a new agenda of trust and security."
He said the prisoner exchange -- which saw 35 detainees handed over on each side -- had created goodwill that needed to be reinforced.
"It is not yet the deadline for lifting sanctions. It's a new state of mind, which we have not seen for several years," Le Drian said.
Lavrov said progress on rebuilding ties with Europe was "possible and necessary". He welcomed recent statements by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as "very, very positive" and described the prisoner exchange as "a good sign" for future progress. -AFP