Let’s rebuild Syria for refugee return: Putin
BERLIN – Agence France-Presse
“We need to strengthen the humanitarian effort in the Syrian conflict,” he said ahead of a meeting with his German counterpart Angela Merkel at the government retreat of Meseberg castle 70 kilometers north of Berlin.
“By that, I mean above all humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, and help the regions where refugees living abroad can return to.”
There are one million refugees in Jordan, the same number in Lebanon, and three million in Turkey, Putin said.
“This is potentially a huge burden for Europe,” Putin said.
“That’s why we have to do everything to get these people back home,” he added, emphasizing the need to properly restore basic services such as water supplies and healthcare.
Also on the agenda for the two leaders is the Ukraine crisis, which “unfortunately does not advance at all”, Putin said.
The Minsk agreements, a peace process sponsored by Germany and France aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine, is at a standstill, Merkel said, pointing at the absence of a “stable ceasefire.”
A United Nations mission on the ground, which will be discussed during the talks, “could perhaps play a pacifying role” in the region, she said.
Earlier, Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas said he was “relatively optimistic about the chances of a United Nations mission”, telling the Die Welt newspaper: “We want to give a new dynamic to the Minsk process.”
Russia is accused by Kiev and Westerners of militarily supporting the separatists in eastern Ukraine, which it denies.
Economic cooperation, particularly over energy, was also billed as a central theme in the discussions. Russia and Germany are partners in the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, a project criticised by US President Donald Trump due to Berlin’s reliance on Moscow.
Russia has shut off gas supplies to Ukraine in the past, having knock-on effects in the European Union.
“Ukraine must, in my opinion, play a role in the transit of gas to Europe”, even after the start of Nord Stream 2 in 2019, the German Chancellor said.
Putin defended the project “which addresses the growing demand of the European economy for energy resources.”
“I want to stress here that Nord Stream 2 is only an economic project and it does not close the door to the continuation of gas transit through the territory of Ukraine,” he said.