Prez Macron raised Kashmir with PM Modi, France says following issue ‘closely’..

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French president Emmanuel Macron raised the Kashmir issue during a phone conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying his country continues to track developments in the region closely.

The matter came up during the conversation on Friday, according to a statement from the Elysee Palace, which added the two leaders agreed to work together to ease tensions in West Asia by urging all parties to show restraint.

An Indian statement issued on Friday had made no reference to the Kashmir issue.

The development comes at a time when the European Union mission in New Delhi is holding discussions with the external affairs ministry on a visit to Kashmir by envoys of EU states, including France.

“In the spirit of trust and frankness that characterises their relations, the French President and the Indian Prime Minister discussed the situation in the region of Kashmir, which France continues to follow closely,” the French statement said.

A group of 15 foreign envoys and senior diplomats, including the ambassadors of the United States, Norway and South Korea, visited Kashmir last week – the first such trip organised by the Indian government.

The external affairs ministry said more such visits will be organised as the situation in Kashmir progressively normalises. People familiar with developments said dates are yet to be fixed for a visit by EU envoys.

The EU has called on India to end the restrictions and detentions in Kashmir. It has also called for talks between India and Pakistan to resolve their disputes.

During their conversation, Macron and Modi “expressed their shared view on the necessity of de-escalation in the Middle East” and “agreed to work together towards easing tensions by urging the parties to show restraint and responsibility”, the French statement said.

The two leaders reiterated their commitment to implementing the goals defined during Modi’s visit to Chantilly in France last August and during India’s participation in the G7 Summit in Biarritz. They agreed to intensify ministerial visits from both sides this year.

Macron and Modi also expressed their interest in strengthening the bilateral partnership in the military and civil nuclear fields, and enhancing “operational cooperation in the Indo-Pacific”.

They also agreed on the importance of remaining in “very close contact in view of the upcoming decisive events in 2020 with regard to climate change and biodiversity”.

The Indian statement had said Modi had reiterated his commitment to further strengthening the strategic partnership between India and France and expressed satisfaction at the steady progress in the multi-faceted relationship.

The statement had also said the two leaders “exchanged views on a range of issues of mutual interest in bilateral relations as well as regional and global situations”.

It had added that two leaders also agreed to keep in touch and further enhance strategic cooperation, including in the areas of defence, civil nuclear energy and maritime security.

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