Jean-Yves Le Drian
© REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defence Minister Florence Parly meet their Russian counterparts in Moscow on 9 September, 2019.
Will US media label him a pro-Putin stooge as it would surely do if Trump said it? French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has called for an easing of tensions with Russia as a delegation of top French ministers met with officials in Moscow on Monday.

"The time has come, the time is right, to work towards reducing distrust," Le Drian said at a press conference. He described Saturday's historic prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine, which included 24 Ukrainian sailors detained in the Kerch Strait incident last November, as presenting a "window of opportunity" that could open a lasting peace between Kiev and Moscow.

It was the first meeting between Russian and French officials in the so-called "2+2" format since tensions soared over the 2014 Crimea crisis, according to the AFP. Defense Minister Florence Parly accompanied Le Drian for the talks with their Russian counterparts.



"We have come to suggest, in the name of the president of the republic, a new agenda of trust and security," Le Drian said. Parly added also that "it is important to talk to each other, to avoid misunderstanding and friction."

"We need to act together toward progressive restoration of strategic stability in Europe in order to lay ground for this new architecture of trust and security, as the European continent will never be stable, will never be secure if there is not utmost clarity in relations with Russia," Le Drian said at a joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded by saying the rebuilding of ties was "possible and necessary" this after French President Emmanuel Macron hosted President Vladimir Putin in southern France last month for talks.

However, Le Drian stopped short of saying EU sanctions related to Russian action in Ukraine should be lifted: "Minsk process should progress for the stabilization of the situation in Ukraine, then the sanctions will be lifted," he said early this week on a French broadcaster.

He further acknowledged recently elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's desire to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine and east tensions with Russia "led to the prisoners' swap".

Paris has of late been at the forefront of European countries seeking to renew high-level diplomatic contacts with Russia after the still stalemated war in Donbass and Crimean status referendum, or what the West describes as Russian annexation of the peninsula, brought Moscow's relations with Europe to their lowest point over the past years.