Putin and Merkel discuss Nord Stream 2, Syrian reconstruction

Larry Hoffman
August 19, 2018

Before the meeting, Merkel said she would discuss the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, as well as Iran and the Nord Stream 2 gas-pipeline project with Putin during their meeting on August 18.

Speaking to the media before the meeting, Ms Merkel said she would discuss the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, as well as Iran and the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project. In May, Merkel travelled to Sochi to meet her Russian counterpart.

The two sides have sparred in recent years over Russia's annexation of Crimea, its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad as he executes a brutal military campaign, over charges that Moscow interfered in the last USA presidential election, and, most recently, over British allegations that the Kremlin tried to kill former spy Sergei Skripal, who now lives in the UK.

The Kremlin views divisions between the USA and Europe over trade and the Iranian nuclear deal as a chance for Russian Federation to mend relations with Germany by presenting itself as a more reliable partner in negotiations.

From her end, Merkel will push for a Russian commitment to keep at least some gas transiting Ukraine, which earns transit fees from it. Putin has said he's open for shipments to continue if Ukraine settles a gas dispute with Russia. "To do everything to leave Ukraine without profits from the existing gas transport system".

Russian Federation and the West remain locked in dispute over Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and the conflict between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Earlier this month, a Russian suggestion that the United States and Russia form a joint group to finance infrastructure renovation in Syria was met with an icy reception, according to a U.S. memo seen by Reuters.

Putin also spoke about global reconstruction efforts and the humanitarian situation in Syria. I think it's in everyone's interests, including Europe's, ' he said.

Joerg Leichtfried from the opposition Social Democrats tweeted that Austria's current presidency of the Council of the European Union put it in an especially delicate spot given tensions between Putin and the West.

The Greens called for Kneissl's resignation, pointing out that "Vladimir Putin is the EU's most aggressive enemy in matters of foreign policy". Merkel has also visited Putin in Russian Federation several times, most recently in May.

In the years since Putin's previous bilateral visit to Germany, he and Merkel have met at worldwide events including the 2017 Group of 20 summit in Hamburg. She was chosen as foreign minister by Austria's far-right Freedom Party, now a partner in the coalition government.

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