Fri, Oct 03, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Russian, German leaders meet amid Georgia tensions

AFP , ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was to meet Russian President Dmitry Medvedev yesterday as the major trading partners moved to overcome strains exacerbated by the recent war in Georgia.

The leaders, accompanied by senior ministers, were also to discuss global financial turmoil and Iran’s controversial nuclear program, a German government official said.

Germany is widely considered Russia’s closest ally in Western Europe, but ties frayed when Russian troops rolled into Georgia in August after Tbilisi tried to reclaim control of the Moscow-backed rebel province South Ossetia.

Merkel has been sharply critical of Russia’s actions in the Caucasus republic, but she has stood out in the EU by pressing for the lines of communication with Moscow to remain open.

Yesterday’s talks were expected to touch on Wednesday’s deployment of an EU mission charged with ensuring security as Russian forces pull back from “buffer zones” around South Ossetia and fellow rebel enclave Abkhazia by Oct. 10.

Since the August war, tensions over Georgia have spilled over into other areas of German-Russian cooperation.

An EU summit sheduled for this month to debate the resumption of negotiations with Russia on a new partnership and cooperation pact was also on the agenda, the senior German official said.

An industry delegation was to travel with Merkel, including the German energy agency president, the chief executives of chemicals behemoth BASF and engineering giant Siemens, and the head of the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, which represents German exporters.

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