BRISBANE, Australia (AFP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday called on French President Francois Hollande to “minimise the risks” between their countries after months of growing tensions.
“There are a lot of turbulent moments in world affairs and not on all issues do our positions converge,” Putin said on the margins of the G20 summit.
“It’s all the more useful to have an opportunity to meet and talk and we have to do everything we can to minimise the risks and the negative consequences for our bilateral relations.”
Russia on Friday reportedly warned France of “serious” consequences unless Paris soon delivers a Mistral-class warship after handover delays on concerns over Moscow’s role in the Ukraine crisis.
However the delivery dispute was not mentioned in the section of the talks open to the press and a source said the matter was not discussed during their meeting.
At the start of their bilateral, Hollande replied to Putin, saying: “We should not suffer any longer from the turbulence today.”
Before journalists were ushered out the French leader spoke of a duty “to settle the crises in Ukraine and elsewhere in the world where we have responsiblities.
“Russia, like France, should take its responsibilities,” Hollande said.
“I am always ready to continue these relations but on one condition, there has to be an outcome.”
With Moscow having expected the first of two French Mistral helicopter carriers to be delivered on November 14, Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti quoted an anonymous high-ranking Moscow source saying Friday, “We are preparing for different scenarios.
“We are waiting until the end of the month, then we will lodge serious claims.”
Under the original deal signed in 2011, the two vessels were worth a combined 1.2 billion euros ($1.5 billion).
But amid this year’s Ukraine crisis and the rapid decline in the West’s relations with Russia, France has come under intense pressure from its allies, particularly the United States not to supply the vessels, and in September postponed the delivery of the ships indefinitely.
Russia denies involvement in the Ukraine conflict, but Western powers fear a possible escalation in fighting, with NATO this week accusing Moscow of sending fresh armoured columns across the border to bolster pro-Russian separatist forces.
Seven months of fighting in eastern Ukraine have claimed the lives of more than 4,000 people, according to UN figures.
A ceasefire agreed in September has stopped fighting along much of the front line, but not artillery bombardments around strategic hotspots.
Officials said Saturday that five civilians, including two children, and three government soldiers had been killed in fighting in eastern Ukraine.