A meeting between France's Jean Yves Le Drian and his Russian counterpart -- accompanied by their defence ministers...... a move that could advance relations between the two nations.This is the first encounter between the two diplomats in the so-called "2+2" format...... which was suspended back in 2014 -- after Moscow seized Crimea from Kiev.(SOUNDBITE) FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER JEAN-YVES LE DRIAN"The time has come, the time is right, to work towards reducing distrust between Russia and Europe... the two countries should be strategic and economic partners. We should be partners because there are many links that unite us."The French foreign minister did however add, that it was still too early...... to lift EU sanctions against Russia.The punitive measures were imposed five years ago -- in the aftermath of the Crimea crisis...//Russia's Sergei Lavrov meanwhile, welcomed France's efforts to rebuild ties...(SOUNDBITE)
SERGEI LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER:"These initiatives are aimed at enhancing Russian-French cooperation on the global arena in the context of our efforts on jointly settling all modern issues, and they are fully in line with Putin's position, and Moscow's interests."The push for a detente with Russia comes...... days after Kiev and Moscow exchanged a total of 70 prisoners.The move was hailed as a breakthrough by both sides -- as well as the international community.//Now -- Monday's meeting is part of French President Emmanuel Macron's bid to bring Russia in from the cold.Last month, he hosted his counterpart for talks in southern France...The two men have since been discussing an array of issues... ... including: Russia's support for separatists in eastern Ukraine...... the country's alleged meddling in the elections of other nations...... in addition to global frictions over Iran.