Putin and Merkel attempt to paper over fissures at Sochi talks

Putin and Merkel attempt to paper over fissures at Sochi talks
German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for talks with President of Russia Vladimir Putin.
By bne IntelliNews May 20, 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Sochi on May 18 to try and paper over some of the fissures that have opened up in Europe between their two countries, with mixed results.

Few details have emerged from the talks that covered a number of topics including the war in eastern Ukraine, Syria and the US decision to pull out of the Iranian nuclear deal.

"I would like to thank Madam Chancellor for a meaningful and candid exchange of opinions, which has been very timely and useful," the Russian leader said, following the talks with Merkel, Tass reported.

Germany and Russia should talk to each other, Merkel said at a joint news conference in Sochi, where Putin has been all week at a meetings with the heads of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).

“[We] see eye-to-eye on a number of issues,” Merkel added, singling out Iran. “German will stick to the [nuclear] deal.”

That puts Germany in an awkward position, as she has openly sided with Russia on the sanctions deal against Germany’s Nato ally, the US.

Merkel also said Germany ready to “promote political process in Syria” which is a de facto concession to the fact that the combined Russia/Syrian forces have largely won the military campaign on the ground against Islamic State (IS) and its allies and are in full control of the country.

On Ukraine little has changed with Merkel sticking to her line that the Minsk II agreement is the only way to resolve the conflict. Both Russia and Ukraine have accused the other of failing to live up to the terms of that deal.

However, the fact of the meeting – this was the 15th time Merkel and Putin have met – highlights Germany’s diplomatic position that these problems and others cannot be solved without the active participation of the Kremlin.

"We have a strategic interest in maintaining relations with Russia," Merkel noted. "I spoke out in favour of continuing dialogue between Russia, the EU and Nato in tough times as well."

"I believe it’s very important to talk to each other," the chancellor concluded. She added that the date for the talks with the Russian president had been well chosen, as it was held "at an important moment."

In related news, Sergei Skripal, the Russian former spy who was left in critical condition by a nerve agent attack in Britain more than two months ago, has been discharged from hospital, national health authorities said on May 18. He has not been seen in public and is presumably in a UK safe house.