Merkel to meet Putin in Moscow for talks on Mideast crises

International

German Chancellor Angela Merkel takes questions as part of a meeting of the German parliament, Bundestag, at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

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BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Moscow on Saturday to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid growing tensions in the Middle East and elsewhere, officials said Monday.

Merkel and Putin will discuss “current international questions,” said Steffen Seibert, the chancellor’s spokesman. Those will include Syria, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Ukraine and bilateral ties.

“Russia is an important player on the world stage and as a permanent member of the (U.N.) Security Council it’s also indispensable when it comes to solving political conflicts,” Seibert said. Germany is currently a non-permanent member of the Security Council.

Germany and Russia are among the world powers that have been trying to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran after the U.S. withdrew from the agreement unilaterally in 2018.

Merkel has already spoken with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday about the situation in the Middle East, Seibert said.

Germany has offered to mediate between all parties following the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq last week.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who will accompany Merkel to Moscow, spent “all weekend on the phone” with his European and American counterparts, his spokesman Rainer Breul told reporters.

He added that talks with the Iranian foreign minister were planned “soon.”

Germany may struggle to portray itself as an honest broker between Washington and Tehran, however.

Iran summoned Germany’s charge d’affaires in Tehran to the foreign ministry Sunday to express annoyance over comments by German officials that suggested Berlin considered Soleimani’s killing to be justified.

Asked to elaborate on about Germany’s stance, Merkel’s spokesman said that the killing of Soleimani “was preceded by Iranian actions,” citing attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, tankers in the Strait of Hormuz and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

“We have always stressed, and perhaps this is an opportunity to do so once more, that we see these regional activities by (Iran) in particular in a very critical way and that they play a negative role in this region,” Seibert said.

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