Merkel and Putin-surprisingly friendly meeting in Moscow

You rub your eyes. Was there something? A crisis between Russia and Germany? The deportation of diplomats? Serious accusations against the Russian authorities for the murder of a Chechen in Berlin’s Tiergarten park? None of this was to be heard in the Kremlin on Saturday, at least not at the press conference after a three-and-a-half-hour conversation between Putin and Merkel. At the press conference, it became clear that on all the issues discussed – from Iran, Syria, Libya, Ukraine to Nord Stream 2 – the two leaders are now postponing different views in favor of goals that can be achieved together. With the unity demonstrated in Moscow, the two leaders may also want to give the US a Signal not to push too far with the ignition in the Middle East.

Solutions for several conflict regions discussed

At the press conference, Angela Merkel expressed her gratitude “for the opportunity to hold a comprehensive discussion on bilateral cooperation as well as on international issues.“Despite” some difficulties in connection with the sanctions in connection with Ukraine “– according to the chancellor – there is an " intensive economic relationship between Russia and Germany, but also in the field of Science and universities.”

The chancellor said that the Nord Stream 2 project was an” important economic project “that was” legitimised by European jurisprudence". Despite the American sanctions against the Pipeline, she said it was possible “to complete the construction of Nord Stream 2”. After Russia and Ukraine agreed on transit deliveries for the next five years and the Turkish Stream Pipeline was opened, fears of unilateral dependence on gas supplies were unfounded.

Vladimir Putin said he expects Nord Stream 2 to be completed by the end of this year, early next year. The German Chancellor said she hoped that the efforts of Putin and Erdogan to establish a ceasefire in Libya would be successful. A ceasefire is to come into force in Libya at zero hours on Sunday. Merkel went on to say that she agreed with Putin “that you can invite to a Libya conference in Berlin very soon.“At this conference, a peace in the North African country should be achieved “under the leadership of the United Nations”.

The Chancellor sees as the greatest danger that other states interfere in the affairs of Libya. She did not say which states they were. But she obviously meant mainly Turkey. Merkel said that a peace solution in Libya must involve the parties in Libya “who are involved in the military conflict.” It would be about “Messrs. Sarradsch and Haftar”. Putin welcomed the German Initiative for a Libya peace conference.

Merkel praises Putin and Erdogan

The German Chancellor said that the discussion between Putin and Erdogan on Syria had “brought important results”. She is pleased that two border crossings to the Idlib Region are now open for humanitarian supplies. Because there would be “a great need"in this Region. “As in Libya”, there would also be” no military solution “for Syria, but"ultimately only negotiated solutions”. Germany is committed to a further humanitarian transition in eastern Syria. Germany also supports the project of a constitutional convention for Syria and will work “very, very closely"with Russia, Turkey and France for this project. Merkel did not mention the leadership of Syria in this context. A political solution is needed “so that people who have fled Syria can return.“Especially many refugees are in Turkey,” the chancellor said.

On Iran, Merkel said that Germany wanted to preserve the nuclear agreement with Iran. Iran should “not have nuclear weapons”. The plane crash in Tehran, the Chancellor said that Iran had announced that the launch was “a big mistake”. It is good that " those responsible are now known.“Now the shooting must be “relentlessly clarified"and” talked about what the consequences are”. The aim in Iraq is to “further facilitate"the fight against Islamic terrorism. What Merkel meant exactly, she did not say. Apparently, however, the Chancellor thinks that German military trainers must necessarily continue to be stationed in Iraq. But she will hardly be able to count on Russian support in this matter.

Putin warns of new refugee flows

The Russian president declared that there was war in the Middle East. But this is not a great war so far. If there is a great war, it will be " a catastrophe not only for the Middle East, but for the whole world.“Then there will be new refugee flows, “not only in Europe, but also in other regions”. There will be “humanitarian, religious, and economic disasters”.

On Ukraine, Merkel stated that at least an exchange of prisoners was achieved at the end of the year. She hopes that at the next meeting in Normandy Format “further progress in the order of the Minsk agreements” will be achieved.

Journalist asks: “EU-Russia cooperation against the USA?”

A journalist from the German private broadcaster RTL asked the chancellor if she could be prepared for the fact that there will be cooperation between the EU and Russia in the future, " possibly also in some questions against the USA?“Merkel replied that, as she explained in the example of Nord Stream 2, there were “differences of opinion with the US, even though they are our allies.” Germany represents its interests and Russia represents its interests. There would be conflicting opinions with Russia, but there would also be “overlaps”. With regard to the nuclear agreement with Iran, Russia is “in principle of the same opinion.“A conversation – as now in Moscow-has the advantage of “talking to each other and not to each other.“Whether it’s Iran, whether it’s Libya or Syria, “something will happen militarily for quite a while. But in the end there will only be a political solution.”

Before Putin and Merkel met, Russian media cited reasons why the chances of a rapprochement between Russia and Germany are good.

As far as Iran is concerned, “the interests of Russia and Germany coincide,” says Ria Novosti. Russia and Germany fear the outbreak of a major war near their countries. The United States is geographically less affected by such a war. European Business has a great interest in the Iranian market, Ria Novosti continues. The nuclear agreement with Iran opened up the possibility of investing in Iran. However, this possibility is now blocked by the unilateral cancellation of the nuclear agreement by the United States. The forecasts for Germany’s economic development are poor, with one percent growth. Trade between Russia and Germany fell by twelve percent in the first ten months of 2019. According to Nesavisimaya Gazeta, the German economy is therefore pressing for an end to the sanctions against Russia.

The sheet quoted extensively from a study conducted by the Berlin Foundation for science and policy, according to which the conflict between Iran and the United States, conflicts in other Islamic States from Afghanistan to Iraq and Lebanon can lead. The flow of refugees from these countries to Europe could increase.

Russian media had reported before the meeting of Putin and Merkel that the initiative for the meeting had originated from the Kremlin, immediately after the murder of the Iranian General Soleimani. Later, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the agreement for a meeting between Putin and Merkel had already been made last year.

Russia represented with large Delegation

The Russian side was represented with a large Delegation at the meeting with Angela Merkel. While Putin was talking to Merkel, the foreign ministers of Russia and Germany, Sergei Lavrov and Heiko Maas, were holding a parallel conference. In the Kremlin hall, where the press conference was held after Putin and Merkel met, I saw Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller in cheerful conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian minister of economic development Maksim Oreshkin. Russian Deputy Energy Minister Pavel Sorokin and Russian ambassador to Berlin Sergey Nechayev were also present.

From the German side, apart from the chancellor, I saw only her spokesman Steffen Seibert. Heiko Maas, would not be questioned during the press conference pointedly to the group of the Russian delegation members – where the German Ambassador in Moscow, Géza Andreas von Geyr, stand – but went on, alone and undeterred, to the other side of the hall, where employees of the German Embassy in Moscow and German journalists had gathered. The lonely march of the German Foreign Minister seemed somehow strange.