Putin, Merkel meet for talks on pipeline, other hot topics

Germany Calls for Boosting Relations with Russia

Putin set to attend Austrian foreign minister's wedding

Ms Merkel told reporters she would discuss the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, as well as Iran and the Nord Stream 2 project. Yet while Putin suggested humanitarian aid would pave the way for some Syrian refugees to return home, German officials say that's unrealistic for now.

Putin arrived in the 18th-century palace shortly after attending the wedding of Austrian FM Karin Kneissl.

Merkel said this will be a working meeting and called not to expect much from the talks.

On the planned Nord Stream 2 pipeline to transport Russian gas to Germany, Merkel said Ukraine must continue to play a role in the transit of gas to Europe once Nord Stream 2 is in place.

Putin told reporters that such a move had to make sense from a business perspective.

The Kremlin views divisions between the United States and Europe over trade and the Iranian nuclear deal as a chance for Russian Federation to mend relations with Germany by presenting itself as a more reliable partner in negotiations, according to other officials, who asked not be identified discussing internal matters.

Russian Federation has shut off gas supplies to Ukraine in the past, having knock-on effects in the European Union.

Putin stressed the importance of Merkel's support for Nord Stream 2 as evidence of her willingness to assert Europe's independence, said three people who attended a recent meeting between the president and senior diplomats. Ukraine fears the pipeline will allow Russian Federation to cut it off from the gas transit business.

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Russian Federation and Germany are partners in the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, a project criticised by US President Donald Trump due to Berlin's reliance on Moscow.

The global coverage of the visit would bring priceless publicity, he added.

The pipeline was a key topic in the two leaders' bilateral talks, which also included other controversial issues such as stability in Ukraine and Syria and the future of the Iran nuclear deal.

Earlier this month, a Russian suggestion that the United States and Russia form a joint group to finance infrastructure renovation in Syria was met with an icy reception, according to a U.S. memo seen by Reuters.

In his comments, Peskov said Merkel and Putin had a "general exchange of opinions" over the situation in Ukraine and that the leaders expressed regret that implementation of the so-called Minsk accords had stalled.

Austrian Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, the leader of Kneissl's far-fright Freedom Party (FPO), praised the foreign minister as a "bridge builder".

"It was very good trip and nice", Putin said of the jaunt to southern Austria, near the border with Slovenia.

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