Russian President Vladimir Putin is wooing French counterpart Emmanuel Macron with closer business ties, hosting him as an honored guest at his annual economic forum in St. Petersburg while sealing a major new gas deal with France's Total.
Economic relations between the two countries "are developing despite all the current complications" caused by European Union sanctions on Russia over its aggression in Ukraine, disagreements over Syria and other matters, Putin said before a 3 1/2-hour meeting with Macron on May 24.
Despite EU sanctions imposed on Russia over its aggression in Ukraine, disagreements over Syria and other matters, Putin said that Russian trade with France grew by 25 percent last year and has continued at that pace this year, according to a Kremlin transcript of his remarks.
While Putin's meeting with Macron focused on broad issues such as the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine and efforts to preserve the Iran nuclear deal, it culminated with the signing of a major deal granting Total an increased role in Russia's Arctic gas projects.
The Russian deal comes days after the French energy giant announced that it will exit its major gas project in Iran unless it can obtain an exemption from U.S. sanctions that Washington announced would be reimposed on Tehran this year.