German and Russian leaders discuss Mideast tensions

International

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel Greer each other prior to the talks in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. Merkel visits Moscow to discuss current international issues such as the situation in Syria, Libya, Ukraine, US-Iran tensions, as well as bilateral relations. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, Pool)

MOSCOW (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks in Moscow on Saturday to discuss growing tensions in the Middle East and other issues.

Earlier in the week, the German leader’s spokesman described Russia as “indispensable when it comes to solving political conflicts” due to its status as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

Germany and Russia are among the world powers that have been trying to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran after the United States withdrew from the agreement unilaterally in 2018.

The prospects of rescuing the nuclear accord could be hurt by Iran’s admission Saturday that one of its anti-aircraft missiles hit a Ukrainian airliner this week, killing all 176 people aboard.

After her meeting with Putin, Merkel said of the plane catastrophe in Tehran: “It is good that those who are responsible are known and I believe that everything has to be done now to find a solution with those countries where those who are affected came from.”

The German and Russian leaders also discussed the conflict in war-torn Libya. Putin said he supports Germany’s proposal for a conference on resolving the Libyan crisis.

“We think Germany’s initiative to host an international conference on Libya in Berlin is timely,” he said. “The Berlin conference needs to ensure attendance of those states that are truly determined to help resolve the Libya crisis so that it could bring about tangible results. What is more important is that its decisions should be negotiated in a preliminary plan with the Libyan parties.”

Putin also brushed off recent claims that mercenaries from a Russian company connected to a Putin ally were fighting in Libya on the side of a renegade general. He said that if any Russians are there, they do not represent the government.

Merkel and Putin also discussed efforts to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine and prospects for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would ship Russian gas to Germany. U.S. sanctions have obstructed construction of the pipeline.

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