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Putin, Merkel discuss Syria, Ukraine, Nord Stream-2 at 'serious, detailed' talks — Kremlin

The talks lasted three hours
Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel EPA-EFE/ALEXANDER BECHER
Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel

BERLIN, August 19. /TASS/. Saturday’s talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which lasted three hours, were serious and detailed, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters after the meeting.

"The conversation was a lengthy one," he said, adding that it was also "very serious and detailed."

Nord Stream-2 project

The issue of possible sanctions against the companies taking part in the Nord Stream-2 pipeline project has been raised during the talks, the Kremlin spokesman has said.

"This issue has been raised," Peskov told reporters.

The two leaders also agreed that that it would be wrong to politicize the project.

"The purely commercial nature of this project and its competitive advantages were underlined," he said. "Both Putin and Merkel agreed that it would be absolutely wrong to somehow politicize this project."

"In general, there is understanding that this project is purely commercial, that it is profitable and competitive," he continued. "That’s why measures need to be taken to defend it from possible anti-competitive and unlawful attacks on behalf of third states, in order to fulfill this project, which is purely commercial and will be in everyone’s interests."

Peskov said the heads of the two states did not aim to reach any kind of practical deals on the issue. "Moreover, it is hard to say what kind of agreements it can be," he added.

"In general, the sides shared their understanding that the [Nord Stream-2] project must be fulfilled," he said.

When asked what kind of measures can be taken to protect the project from US sanctions, Peskov only replied "different ones."

According to the Kremlin spokesman, Putin and Merkel also discussed "perspectives of continuing the gas transit via the territory of Ukraine."

The Kremlin spokesman also said Putin and Merkel exchanged opinions on international trade issues in general.

Both sides have "expressed their mutual concern by the unpredictability of decisions made by certain states, especially on the issue of tariffs," Peskov said. "There are concerns that such decisions may eventually have a negative impact on the system of international trade and economic relations in general."

Syrian issue

During the talks, Putin urged European countries to actively assist the return of Syrian refugees to their homes, the Kremlin spokesman said.

"[Putin and Merkel] thoroughly discussed Syrian affairs," Peskov said. "Putin noted that the process of refugees’ return to Syria has been gradually intensifying and urged European nations to make their contribution to making this process irreversible."

"The issue of political settlement in Syria, of a wide and inclusive format of political settlement, involving all sides, was raised," he added.

The two leaders also agreed that Russia, Germany, France and Turkey would keep discussing the Syrian settlement process in the four-party format, proposed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Earlier reports said that a summit of Russia, Turkey, Germany and France may take place in Istanbul on September 7. 

"This format was mentioned," the Kremlin spokesman said. "It was agreed that the dialogue in this format would continue at the expert level, at the level of aides," Peskov said, adding that the level of discussions may be raised in the future.

Speaking about the possible summit of Russia, Germany, France and Turkey on the issue, Peskov said that such an event "is yet to be agreed." "So far, no timeframes have been agreed," he added.

Peskov, however, did not rule out the possibility of holding a four-nation summit in the future.

Ukrainian reconciliation

Putin and Merkel said at the talks they regretted that the implementation of the Minsk agreements on Ukrainian settlement had stalled.

"A general exchange of opinions on the situation in Ukraine has taken place," Peskov said. "We expressed regret in connection with the total stalemate of the process to implement the Minsk agreements."

"Concerns were also expressed regarding the unclear perspectives of extending the law on the special status of Donbass, an important element of the Minsk agreements which is now expiring," Peskov went on.

In February 2015, the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements aimed at resolving the Donbass conflict was signed at a summit of the Normandy Quartet (involving Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine). The 13-point document calls for a ceasefire in Donbass, the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of contact, an amnesty, a constitutional reform aimed at decentralizing the country and a special status to certain areas in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

However, the agreements have not been fulfilled until now. Kiev has been refusing to implement political provisions, citing unresolved security issues as one of its reasons. Ukraine has failed to carry out a constitutional reform, as well as to enforce a law on the special status of Donbass and pass a law on regional elections. Instead, it insists on regaining control over the border with Russia, though the Minsk Agreements say that it must happen after elections.

Business cooperation

During the meeting, the Russian leader told the German chancellor that he was set to continue his dialogue with German companies.

"The president and the chancellor have had a detailed discussion on bilateral relations, and noted with satisfaction that the bilateral trade was growing," the Kremlin spokesman said.

"Putin noted that he regularly communicated with representatives of large German companies and was set to continue this practice," he went on.

During the meeting, the sides "noted certain projects of German companies with regard to increasing their presence on Russian markets."

"Putin confirmed our interest in cooperation of this kind," Peskov said.

According to the official, not only business cooperation was discussed. The sides also discussed civil society dialogue and the importance of scientific exchanges, including in high-tech areas.