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Putin, Merkel to discuss fight against terrorism, Middle East, Minsk accords

The two leaders will also discuss in detail for the first time in three years the current state and prospects for bilateral relations
 Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel Mikhail Metzel/TASS
Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel
© Mikhail Metzel/TASS

MOSCOW, May 2. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday to discuss the fight against terrorism, the situation in the Middle East and the implementation of the Minsk agreements, the Kremlin press service reported.

"Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold talks with German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel in Sochi on May 2," the press service said. The formal reason for the chancellor’s visit to Russia after a two-year hiatus is preparations for the G20 summit to be held in Hamburg in July.

However, the meeting will focus on the key international issues. The two leaders who met fairly often prior to the 2014 Ukrainian developments will discuss in detail for the first time in three years the current state and prospects for bilateral relations, including cooperation in the energy sector, trade, economy, cultural and humanitarian spheres. "It is planned to raise key international problems, including the fight against terrorism, the situation on the Middle East, the implementation of the Minsk agreements aimed a resolving the Ukrainian crisis," the Kremlin press service said.

For his part, German Government Spokesman Steffen Seibert said ahead of the visit that Merkel is going to discuss with Putin the situation in Ukraine, the conflict in Syria and the political situation in Libya. He also noted that the two leaders would hold two rounds of negotiations and will talk to the media.

Ukrainian impasse

Merkel and Putin last had an opportunity to discuss the situation in eastern Ukraine during a meeting about six months ago - in November 2016 in Berlin. During the summit, which also involved French and Ukrainian Presidents Francois Hollande and Pyotr Poroshenko, the four leaders agreed that a roadmap for the Minsk agreements, which are considered to be the basis for the settlement, will be drafted. It was planned to do that within a month. However, the parties’ notions of the sequence and interdependence of individual steps were so different that the document has not been agreed to date.

Despite the lack of tangible progress, Berlin continues to believe that there is no alternative to the Minsk agreements to resolve the Ukrainian crisis. Germany will push ahead with its efforts for their implementation. However, the German Foreign Ministry is convinced that "the keys to resolving the conflict are in Moscow and Kiev."

Berlin has pointed out that the German side has "clear expectations" and views regarding the Ukrainian crisis, which will be conveyed to Russian counterparts. Part of the German stance is also an attempt to link the implementation of the Minsk accords to the anti-Russian sanctions imposed by the EU. Berlin has stressed on numerous occasions that they could only be lifted after full compliance with the agreements on resolving the Ukrainian crisis. At the same time, there is a heated debate in the European Union about extending the restrictive measures, which expire this summer.

Syrian aspect

There are profound disagreements between Moscow and Berlin on the situation in Syria. That was the way during the previous meeting between Putin and Merkel last November when Syrian troops liberated Aleppo. Disagreements persist now, a few weeks after the incident with the use of chemical weapons in Syria’s Idlib province. Western countries, including Germany, assert that the Syrian government is to blame for it.

The German government is also convinced that it will be only possible to put an end to the long-term conflict if Moscow and Washington work on that jointly. Besides, the German government spokesman noted in the run-up to the visit that Germany is interested in Russia’s involvement in a constructive discussion of the key international issues and resolving foreign policy challenges and crises. Germany is also committed to the European Union’s more active role in the settlement of the situation.

It is noteworthy that the situation around Syria is affecting domestic political life in Germany, which is becoming increasingly more significant ahead of the elections to the Bundestag. The number-one problem is huge number of refugees who appeared in Germany because of the destabilization of the situation in Syria. The second problem is the terrorist threat emanating from Islamic radicals who have penetrated into the country with migrant flows.

Bilateral cooperation

In the run-up to Merkel’s visit to Sochi, representatives of German businesses expressed the hope for the revival of economic relations between Russia and Germany. Back in 2012, the trade turnover between the two countries was at the level of 80 billion euros. Then the Ukrainian crisis and sanctions followed, and it fell nearly by half - to 50 billion in 2016. Positive signals appeared earlier this year. Executive Director of the German Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations Michael Harms told TASS that the trade turnover had grown by 40% during the first two months. The increase is expected to be at the level of five percent at the end of the year, he said.