PARIS (APP) - Pakistan and France on Tuesday agreed to setting up of a Joint Economic Commission for closer cooperation in food, agriculture, economic development and large-scale training of nurses for export to the European Union and Middle East. The decision was taken during a meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who called on him here at his hotel, prior to his departure for London. The two sides agreed to hold the first meeting of the commission in October in Islamabad. France also assured to expedite the payments it had pledged under the Friends of Democratic Pakistan on priority, to help the country meet the situation arising out of floods and the large-scale devastation. Spokesperson to the President Farhatullah Babar told media after the meeting that President Zardari stres-sed the importance of deeper bilateral ties between the two countries. He also apprised the French Foreign Minister of the death and destruction caused by the floods, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and the need for international assistance to help Pakistan cope with the natural calamity. The President in this regard stressed the importance of realization of the pledges made by the FoDP as the country has come under immense economic pressure, first due to its role in the war against terror and then because of the heavy rains that have killed over 1400 people and rendered millions homeless. President Zardari was of the view that greater access to the EU markets was vital to help the people better economic activities and to distance them away from the influence of Taliban. President also asked the French Foreign Minister to explore the possibility of a debt swap arrangement and mentioned that the bilateral debt to France totalling $2.3b include $845m ODA and $1.49b of non-ODA assistance, the spokesperson said. President Zardari also reiterated Pakistans interest in a serious and substantive engagement in civil nuclear cooperation under the IAEA safeguards with France. He said Pakistan was faced with a serious energy crisis and it needed to explore and exploit all sources of energy including hydro, thermal, solar, wind and nuclear. President Zardari also called for setting up a research fund to facilitate scientific cooperation between the science institutions of the two countries and proposed enhancement of cultural exchanges between the two countries. He appreciated the holding of Gandhara Exhibition at the Guimet museum in Paris and a month of 'Pakistan in Paris covering a vast number of cultural activities and thanked the French government for its support. The French Foreign Minister said that France deeply appreciated Pakistans role in the fight against militancy and that France would continue to support it in security and economic development areas. He said that France was keen to hold the first meeting of the Joint Commission before October this year and work out a practicable plan for assistance in various areas of economic development issues and security.