Accessibility links

Breaking News

Putin Heads To Germany, France For Talks On Syria, Business

Putin is expected to discuss greater Russian access to European markets with German leader Angela Merkel. (file photo)
Putin is expected to discuss greater Russian access to European markets with German leader Angela Merkel. (file photo)
Moves to strengthen economic links and the conflict in Syria are expected to top the agenda as Russian President Vladimir Putin meets the leaders of France and Germany, the two biggest European Union economies.

Putin, on his first foreign tour since taking office for his third presidential term on May 7, opened the tour on May 31 in Belarus, where he met with President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

In Berlin, Putin's meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel on June 1 is expected to focus on Moscow's push for greater Russian access to European markets.

Germany is Russia's biggest EU trade partner.

A Putin aide said the Russian leader would discuss progress on building the North Stream pipeline, which is planned to pump Russian gas to Germany across the Baltic Sea.

However, reports say the intensifying Syrian crisis is likely to dominate Putin's talks in both Germany and France.

Russia has come under mounting pressure from the West over Moscow's resistance to tougher United Nations action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria has been a longtime ally of Russia, serving as a top customer for Russian weapons and providing Moscow with its only naval base outside the former Soviet Union, at the port of Tartus on Syria's Mediterranean coast.

Syrian 'Civil War Threat'

On May 31, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Moscow's support for Damascus could contribute to a Syrian civil war.

Western-led calls for action against Syria intensified following last week's massacre in the Syrian town of Houla that left 108 people dead, many of them women and children.

Germany, France, Britain, the United States, and other Western nations have expelled Syrian diplomats over the killings.

Merkel's spokesman has indicated that the German chancellor would push for more international pressure on Syria when she meets the Russian leader.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has stressed that international efforts to stop the bloodshed in Syria are not aimed at damaging Russia's strategic interests.

Russian spokesmen said earlier this week that Moscow is categorically opposed to foreign military intervention in Syria, and that Russia will not be swayed by pressure from Western states.

Newly elected French President François Hollande, who will host talks with Putin later on June 1, said he would also seek to persuade Putin to back a new round of sanctions against the Syrian regime.

Hollande has not ruled out an international military intervention in Syria, but says the move must first be backed by the UN Security Council, of which Russia is a veto-holding permanent member.

With reporting by AP, AFP, RIA Novosti, Interfax, and ITAR-TASS
  • 16x9 Image


    RFE/RL journalists report the news in 27 languages in 23 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established. We provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

If you are in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine and hold a Russian passport or are a stateless person residing permanently in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine, please note that you could face fines or imprisonment for sharing, liking, commenting on, or saving our content, or for contacting us.

To find out more, click here.