Putin tells Merkel he's eager to discuss Ukraine, Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel to his Black Sea residence on Tuesday for talks expected to focus on the unresolved conflict in eastern Ukraine and the civil war in Syria.

Germany and Russia are at odds over both conflicts, but Putin has appeared eager to improve ties. Merkel's one-day trip to Sochi is her first visit to Russian in two years.

In opening the talks, Putin said: "We must use this opportunity to talk about our relations and about more problematic issues, such as Ukraine and Syria and perhaps some other regions."

Putin and Merkel last met in Germany in October for talks aimed at reviving the stalled peace process in eastern Ukraine. A peace deal brokered by Germany and France in 2015 has helped reduce the scale of the fighting, but violence has continued and attempts to reach a political settlement have failed.

Tuesday's meeting comes amid tensions between the two countries over Germany's support for EU sanctions imposed on Russia because of its annexation of Crimea and support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine.

On Syria, Germany also has been sharply critical of Russia's support for President Bashar Assad. Merkel has suggested that Moscow was partly responsible for atrocities because of the airstrikes its forces have carried out on civilian areas.

Putin, however, told Germany's foreign minister during a visit in March that it is "our common goal to fully normalize relations and to make sure all the difficulties we face are overcome."



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