France, Germany propose EU summit with Russia's Putin, diplomats say

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BRUSSELS, June 23 (Reuters) - France and Germany proposed on Wednesday a European Union summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin to try to improve relations, two diplomats said, potentially paving the way for the first such meeting since 2014.

Such an event would follow U.S. President Joe Biden's summit in Geneva with Putin earlier this month and reflects concern in Paris and Berlin that the EU's approach to Russia in recent years has mainly been focused on sanctions on Moscow.

"We need to have a discussion about how to get away from this negative spiral ... but we need to advance united," one senior EU diplomat said, adding that some Baltic countries wary of Russia may not agree to a summit.

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It was not clear if any summit would involve all 27 EU leaders or only the EU's chief executive, Ursula von der Leyen, and its chairman, Charles Michel. Such summits were suspended after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in 2014.

EU leaders will discuss a new strategy to manage worsening relations with Russia at their two-day summit in Brussels on Thursday.

"Germany and France have given some ideas for the EU-summit-debate on Russia. Merkel has mentioned before that not only the U.S. should talk with Russia (and China) on the highest level. Russia is a neighbor. Such a format existed already in 2007 in Finland,” a person dealing with the preparation of the summit told Reuters.

A strategy paper by the European Commission and the EU's diplomatic service said earlier this month that despite years of tensions, "the EU and Russia have a fundamental common responsibility for peace and security on the European continent."

Despite accusations by the West that Russia is responsible for cyber attacks, disinformation and other covert acts - which the Kremlin denies - the country is also the EU's fifth largest trade partner. The EU is the largest foreign investor in Russia.

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Reporting by Robin Emmott and Philip Blenkinsop

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