French President Francois Hollande met with Russian President Vladimir Putin Moscow with trade at the top of the agenda.
Hollande was under pressure from groups in France to broach sensitive issues such as Syria and human rights.
Russia has been the biggest backer of Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad whereas France has offered assistance to the rebels. But Hollande shied away from a confrontation.
“I am here and this testifies to the quality of our relations. These are historic relations which unite our two nations. As two large countries we have close relations, and as members of the UN Security Council we have a responsibility concerning international conflicts and to prevent threats, particularly of terrorism.”
As the French economy edges closer to recession, Hollande sought to stimulate economic links with Moscow. Addressing French businessman he urged them to expand trade ties with Russia, citing the country’s recent joining of the World Trade Organisation.
Giovanni Maggi reporting for euronews from Moscow offered his view of the trip: “For his first Russian visit as president, Francois Hollande chose the route of economic diplomacy. There are certainly sensitive political issues, such as human rights, Syria and other international dossiers, but now is the time to work on boosting economic relations. France certainly needs it.”