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Merkel to pay first visit to Russia in two years for talks with Putin
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will make her first visit to Russia in two years on May 2 to hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.
German Government Spokesman Steffen Seibert said the leaders will hold two rounds of talks and answer reporters' questions. According to Seibert, the reason for the visit to Russia is preparations for the G20 summit in Hamburg in July. However, the talks are expected to focus on the Ukrainian crisis, the conflict in Syria and the situation in Libya, as well as bilateral relations, he said.
Last time, Merkel and Putin met in November 2016 in Berlin to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine. During the summit, also attended by French President Francois Hollande and Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko, the sides agreed that a roadmap will be worked out for the Minsk peace deal, which all the sides regard a basis for settlement. However, the Normandy Four group has so far failed to agree on the priorities of implementing the deal.
Despite the lack of significant progress, Berlin still considers the Minsk agreements as the only tool for resolving the Ukrainian conflict. Germany's Foreign Ministry is convinced that "the keys of settling the conflict are in the hands of Moscow and Kiev."
Germany insists that lifting EU sanctions against Russia can be possible only after the Minsk agreements are implemented in full. The EU is currently holding a heated debate on whether to extend restrictions against Moscow, which will expire this summer.
Positions of Moscow and Berlin on the Syrian conflict also differ seriously. This was the case during the previous meeting between Putin and Merkel in November 2016, when the Syrian forces were liberating Aleppo. Tensions are also high now after the alleged use of chemical weapons in Khan Shaykhun, in Syria's Idlib Governorate, with Western countries accusing the Syrian government of the incident.
The German government is convinced that the long-running conflict may be brought to an end only if Moscow and Washington unite efforts. Berlin also wants Russia to join constructive discussion on key international issues and deal with foreign policy challenges and crises, the spokesman said. Germany also calls for a more active role of the EU in conflict settlement.
In the run-up to Merkel's trip to Sochi, German businesses expressed hope that economic relations between Germany and Russia will be revived. Back in 2012, trade turnover between the two countries was estimated at 80 bln euros, and the figure was almost reduced by half amid the Ukrainian crisis and sanctions to 50 bln euros in 2016.
Positive signals emerged already in the first quarter of this year. Michael Harms, Executive Director of the German Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, told TASS bilateral trade grew 40% in the first two months. By the year-end, the figure is expected to rise by 5%.
[Source: Itar Tass, Berlin, 30Apr17]
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