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German President Worried About West-Russia 'Alienation,' Calls For Dialogue

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in October

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has voiced concern over the growing "alienation" between Russia and the West and called for renewed diplomatic efforts to mend the damaged ties.

Steinmeier said in an interview pushed on April 15 that last month's poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter in Britain was "a very serious incident.”

But he added that “we should be at least as worried about the accelerating estrangement between Russia and the West, which has consequences reaching far beyond the case."

Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were hospitalized on March 4 after being exposed to a potent nerve toxin and found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury in southern England.

Britain blames Russia for the attempted murder, a charge that Moscow fiercely denies.

The attack has ignited a fierce dispute between the West and Russia, leading to a series of tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions and other measures.

More recently, the United States, France, and Britain defied Russian warnings and carried out air strikes in Syria over the weekend following an alleged deadly chemical attack by the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, a Moscow ally.

Steinmeier was quoted as saying that while it was right to show Russia its actions have consequences, as demonstrated by the sanctions imposed over Russia’s aggression of Ukraine, "we can't abandon direct dialogue."

He also cautioned against demonizing an entire nation, saying, "Independently of [President Vladimir] Putin, we can't declare the whole of Russia, the country and its people, as our enemy."

On Syria, Steinmeier said there could be no improvement on the ground until U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart engaged with each other in a constructive manner to try to negotiate a solution.

"Of course, you can't do it without the regional neighbors in the end, but everything begins with the U.S. and Russia," he was quoted as saying. "Putin and Trump owe it to the world to take the first step."

With reporting by dpa and AFP
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