The Kremlin says German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a “"very serious and detailed" three-hour discussion during their meeting outside of Berlin, including an exchange of views on Ukraine, Syria, Iran, and a crucial pipeline project.
The remarks to reporters early on August 19 by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov were the first comments after the meeting of the two leaders at Meseberg Castle north of Berlin. Few details were revealed.
Officials had said the leaders would not be holding a news conference following their talks, and no other official statements were immediately released.
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.
The Minsk agreements are September 2014 and February 2015 pacts aimed at resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Kyiv government forces in a war that has killed more than 10,300 people since 2014.
Peskov also said the two agreed to continue the four-party dialogue involving Russia, Germany, France, and Turkey in efforts to end the civil war in Syria.
Moscow, along with Iran, has given President Bashar al-Assad crucial support throughout the war in Syria. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed since the conflict began with a government crackdown on protesters in March 2011.
The United States and the West support Syrian rebels in the war, while Turkey also backs antigovernment fighters in the country, although not always the same ones as U.S. forces support.
Prior to the meeting, Merkel said she would discuss the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, as well as Iran and the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Putin.
Addressing reporters at Meseberg Palace outside of Berlin before their talks, Merkel said she would also raise human rights issues and bilateral relations.
"I am of the opinion that controversial issues can only be addressed in dialogue and through dialogue," she said.
The two leaders took no questions after the premeeting briefing with reporters.
Nord Stream 2
On the planned Nord Stream 2 pipeline to carry Russian gas under the Baltic to Germany, Merkel said that "Ukraine must continue to play a role in the transit of gas to Europe once Nord Stream 2 is in place."
She welcomed the start of discussions among the European Union, Ukraine, and Russia on the issue.
Putin told reporters that such a move had to make sense for Moscow from a business perspective.
"I would like to stress that the main thing is that the Ukrainian transit -- which is traditional for us -- meets economic demands," he said. "Nord Stream 2 is exclusively an economic project."
The United States is against the pipeline and claims it will increase Germany's dependence on Russia for energy.
Ukraine fears the pipeline will allow Russia to cut it off from the gas transit business. Germany's eastern European neighbors, nervous of Russian encroachment, have also raised concerns about the project.
But Merkel has maintained that the Nord Stream project is an economic, not political matter for Germany. She is also under pressure from German businesses to maintain ties with Russia on that and other important economic projects.
Peskov confirmed that Nord Stream was brought up during the talks.
"Both Putin and Merkel agreed that it would be absolutely wrong to somehow politicize this project," Peskov said.
The Russian leader also said ahead of the meeting that he would discuss the 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran which he labelled an important agreement. U.S. President Donald Trump exited the deal in May.
Merkel warned on August 17 against expecting too much from her discussions with Putin.
The two leaders last met in Sochi in May and struggled to overcome differences.