The Russian Black Sea health resort of Sochi is about to launch into a two-day round of Russian-French summit talks.
As a source in the Kremlin told RIA Novosti, talks between the presidents of Russia and France will mostly focus on Russia-European Union relations and the associated problem of the Kaliningrad region, the Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea. Once the EU is enlarged to the east, the region will be separated from the rest of Russia by a Schengen zone.
As a leader of the European Union, France may help streamline the Russia-EU relationship by "helping settle the Kaliningrad problem" and implementing the European Commission statement recognizing the market status of Russian economy, said RIA Novosti's source, adding that Jacques Chirac had repeatedly voted for a closer cooperation between Russia and the European Union.
The two leaders are also planning to discuss the situation with Russian-speaking inhabitants of the Baltic states, mostly that in the light of the EU enlargement. In fact, despite "certain efforts" to solve this problem, non-aboriginal nations inhabiting the Baltic states are still going through the process of "creeping assimilation." There is also the acute problem of "non-citizens." Apart from all that, Vladimir Putin and Jacques Chirac will exchange opinions on ways to implement the decisions made during the Group of Eight summit meeting in Kananaskis, Canada, and during Russia's meetings with NATO and the European Union. They will also discuss Russian-French interaction in the framework of the United Nations Security Council.
Putin and Chirac are also expected to touch on the problem of settling regional conflicts, especially the Mideastern problem and the conflict between India and Pakistan, and on ways of pacifying the situation around Iraq and restoring normal life in Afghanistan.
As far as bilateral cooperation is concerned, the two leaders will focus their attention on priority lines of trade-and-economic cooperation, especially that in the aerospace sphere and in the fields of energy, advanced technologies, and the agroindustrial complex.
The source said Moscow welcomed the recent decision made by the European Space Agency to let Russia launch its rocket boosters of the Soyuz type from the Kourou launching site in French Guiana. Paris, on its part, regarded Russian air carriers' intention to purchase air-buses and use them on medium-length air lines as a confirmation of Russia's aspiration towards a strategic partnership with the European Union in general and with France in particular.
Finally, the two presidents will discuss various aspects of Russian-French cooperation in the cultural sphere.
The Sochi summit is Chirac's first round of talks since his re-election as the French President and since the formation of a new right-centrist government in France.
In 2002, Putin and Chirac met twice -- in the framework of the Russia-NATO summit in Rome and the G-8 meeting in Kananaskis.
According to RIA Novosti's information, the agenda of Chirac's trip to Sochi envisages no informal events.
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969