German president in Russia talks about Ukraine, other crises

October 25, 2017
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier talk during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017. (Yuri Kochetkov/Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW (AP) — Germany and Russia need to overcome their mutual distrust, the German president said Wednesday on a visit to Russia.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin that the two countries need to take a “common effort to be more predictable and rebuild a minimum of trust.”

The talks ranged from economic ties to the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria as well as other international crises.

Steinmeier said he wanted to explore “whether there are ways out of a negative spiral we had in the past of lost confidence, of mutual accusations and misunderstandings.”

Russia-West ties have been strained over Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

“I think we agree that we can’t and mustn’t be satisfied with the current state (of relations),” Steinmeier said. “We are some way from normal relations.”

Putin said they agreed on the need to implement a 2015 peace deal for eastern Ukraine, which was brokered by Germany and France. The agreement has helped reduce the scope of hostilities that have killed more than 10,000 people since fighting began in April 2014.

The Russian leader added that he and Steinmeier discussed the possible deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping contingent in eastern Ukraine, but gave no details. Russia and Ukraine have conflicting visions of the mandate for such a mission.

The Russian leader said the Kremlin talks also focused on getting a peace settlement in Syria, the Iranian nuclear deal and the situation around North Korea.

Steinmeier is the first German president to visit Russia in seven years.

Steinmeier served as Germany’s foreign minister until becoming president earlier this year, but in his new role has little say in day-to-day politics. Germany only has a caretaker government at present as Chancellor Angela Merkel is trying to form a new governing coalition after last month’s election.

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