Before meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin asked Europe to help rebuild Syria so millions of refugees can go back home:
“We need to strengthen the humanitarian effort in the Syrian conflict. By that, I mean above all humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, and help the regions where refugees living abroad can return to.”
Germany has opened its doors to hundreds of thousands of migrants since 2015 which weakened Merkel’s politically and divided the European Union.
“This is potentially a huge burden for Europe,” Putin said.
“That’s why we have to do everything to get these people back home,” he added, stressing the importance of immediate restoration of basic services such as water supplies and healthcare.
The Ukrainian crisis will also be discussed by the two leaders because Putin believes that the situation has not progressed at all.
Germany and France have agreed to work on a peace process “Minsk agreement”, which aims to end the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine. However, the absence of a “stable ceasefire” made it impossible for the Minsk process to takeoff.
Merkel is counting on the United Missions on the ground to play a pacifying role in the region.
Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas told the Die Welt newspaper that he was “relatively optimistic about the chances of a United Nations mission. We want to give a new dynamic to the Minsk process.”
Economic cooperation is part of the agenda. Russia and Germany are partners in the Nord Stream 2 Baltic sea gas pipeline. Ukraine is concerned that Russia may exclude them from the gas pipeline route because this has been done in the past.
Merkel has consistently pushed for Ukraine’s involvement in the project:
“Ukraine must, in my opinion, play a role in the transit of gas to Europe.” Nord Stream 2 is expected to commence operations in 2019.
Putin himself has issues reassuring statements on Ukraine’s involvement on the project:
“I want to stress here that Nord Stream 2 is only an economic project and it does not close the door to the continuation of gas transit through the territory of Ukraine.”