On August 18th, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks in the German Schloss Meseberg palace.
The two leaders discussed the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, as well as Iran. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that no agreements had been reached, but that was not the aim of the meeting. Rather, it was a meeting to “check the watches” after Merkel and Putin met on May 18th in Sochi. “There was no goal to reach any agreements. That was a well-timed useful discussion on synchronization of watches on a number of urgent issues,” said the spokesman.
The format of the meeting on August 18th was unusual, because the leaders made statements prior to the meeting. The Kremlin clarified that that the decision was made because addressing media late on Saturday would have been “inconvenient.”
“The negotiations were very long. That was a very substantiate, detailed discussion of the issues that were mentioned in the statements of the president and the chancellor [made before the talks],” said Peskov.
According to the Kremlin spokesman, Putin reaffirmed Moscow’s commitment to continue its work with German businesses. “Putin regularly communicates with representative of big German companies and wants to continue this practice. [The parties] pointed out several projects of big German companies aimed at expansion of their presence on the Russian market. Putin reaffirmed our interest for such cooperation,” Peskov commented.
Regarding the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which has come under strong condemnation by the US and Ukraine, Putin and Merkel agreed that the project was profitable, competitive and both sides have not lost their will to complete it. They further agreed that the project should not be politicized. “[The parties] discussed big projects including Nord Stream 2. [Putin and Merkel] pointed out the commercial nature and competitive advantage of this project. Both Putin and Merkel agreed that it was not right to somehow politicize this project,” said Peskov.
They further discussed possible US sanctions against the Nord Stream 2, however Germany is not going to comply with US demands, Russia will also take measures to protect it. As cited by the DW, they didn’t discuss possible US sanctions against the companies involved in the project. “There is a general understanding that the projects is commercially profitable and competitive and that is why it is necessary to take measures to protect it from possible attacks… of third parties and to complete the project,” said Peskov. The US is against the pipeline because, according to the Trump Administration would increase Germany’s dependence on Russia for energy. Ukraine fears the pipeline will allow Russia to cut it off from the gas transit business, while Germany’s eastern European neighbors, such as Poland, worry about Russian encroachment.
The other topic of discussion was Ukraine. It was of significance since the relationship between Germany and Russia has been strained since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Angela Merkel at the start of the talks highlighted Germany’s expectation for Ukraine to continue having a role in gas transit to Europe, she also welcomed the possible beginning of discussion between the EU, Ukraine and Russia on the issue. Putin commented that such a move would have to make sense from a business perspective. “The main thing is that the Ukrainian transit – which is traditional for us – meets economic demands,” he said. “Nord Stream 2 is exclusively an economic project.”
Regarding the conflict in Ukraine, Merkel said that she favored the stationing of UN peacekeepers to oversee the ceasefire bids in Eastern Ukraine under German and French mediation. According to Putin, however, there had been “absolutely no progress” in the region. Merkel said she hoped fresh efforts could be undertaken at the beginning of the new school year to disentangle Ukrainian military forces and separatists on the front lines in the Donbass region.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper Germany hoped to “create new momentum” in the Minsk peace process. Sanctions relief for Russia would only be negotiated if the Minsk accord was implemented, he added.
Discussing the Syrian conflict, Merkel said that both countries have a responsibility to try to solve the fighting in Syria. She also expressed her intention of discussing potentially thorny human rights issues with Putin. “I am of the opinion that controversial issues can only be addressed in dialogue and through dialogue,” the German chancellor said. Both leaders expressed their concerns about Syria and the many refugees created by the seven-year war.
Merkel emphasized that it is of importance to avert a humanitarian crisis in Idlib, Syria and the surrounding region. She also further commented that she and Putin had discussed the issue of constitutional reforms and elections during their last meeting in Sochi on May 18th. Putin commented that every possible effort should be made to help Syrian refugees return to their country and that Syria required help to rebuild. The two leaders also discussed the possibility of creating a Russia-Germany-France-Turkey format of talks on Syria, according to Peskov. “Such format has been discussed. [Putin and Merkel] decided that the dialogue in such a format would be launched at the level of expert and aides in order to upgrade the level of talks in the future,” he commented.
The leaders also commented the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. Dmitry Peskov commented that the situation around the issue is clear and there was no further need to comment. The members of the deal will follow through on their promises to offset the US withdrawal from it.
The meeting, as it was claimed in the preliminary statements, didn’t reach any conclusive agreements, however that was not the purpose of it.