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Merkel Discusses Ukraine, Syria With Russian FM, Military Chief

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (file photo)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (file photo)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel met July 24 in Berlin with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the chief of Russia's military General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov, to discuss the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

The meeting was also attended by Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Merkel's spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said in a statement, adding that the talks were arranged in a telephone call last week by Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"The focus of the talks was the situation in the Middle East, in particular in Syria. The conflict in eastern Ukraine was also discussed," added Demmer.

The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed the meeting, saying the parties discussed the situation in Syria and the "preparation of conditions for the return of refugees."

Moscow backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian conflict.

The meeting also touched upon "ongoing work within the 'Normandy format' to fulfill the Minsk agreements" as well as several bilateral issues, the ministry said in a statement, referring to the 2015 Ukraine peace plan brokered by France and Germany in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. The so called "Normandy four" consists of Germany, France, Ukraine, and Russia.

More than 10,300 people have been killed in fighting between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.

The conflict has also internally displaced within Ukraine an estimated 1.6 million people -- the largest uprooted population in Europe and among the 10 largest in the world.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, dpa, and Interfax

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