asia

Merkel, Putin discuss West Asia at Kremlin


German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on Saturday for talks set to focus on flashpoints in the West Asian region. Ms. Merkel and Mr. Putin shook hands at the start of the meeting which the German leader said would cover topics, including turmoil in Libya and the Syria conflict as well as Ukraine’s war with pro-Russian separatists.

“There is a lot to discuss,” said Ms. Merkel, adding that “talking with one another is always better than talking about one another.” Mr. Putin thanked the Chancellor for visiting and said they would focus on “the hottest” topics.

Germany and Russia said ahead of the talks that they would cover the confrontation between Washington and Tehran over the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general and turmoil in Libya. The visit by Ms. Merkel was her first to Russia since May 2018 when the leaders met at Mr. Putin’s Black Sea residence.

Mr. Putin visited Syria and Turkey this week and is keen to stress his role as a regional powerbroker. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who accompanied Ms. Merkel, said a “key reason” for the meeting was the escalating crisis in Libya, where Berlin is acting as a mediator in a conflict he has warned could become a “second Syria”. Ms. Merkel is to invite Mr. Putin to a Berlin conference on Libya later this month, diplomatic sources told AFP. Mr. Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a ceasefire in Libya on Wednesday, although they are seen as supporting opposing sides in the conflict.

While Turkey has sent troops to support the UN-backed Tripoli government, Moscow is accused of backing mercenaries supporting strongman Khalifa Haftar in his fight against the government.

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