Putin Meets Merkel, Calls for Helping Syrian Refugees Return Home

BERLIN- Three-hour talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel ended in the Meseberg castle near Berlin on Saturday evening.

Before the talks began, the leaders told the media that they were set to discuss the Syrian issue, the Ukrainian conflict settlement, the situation around the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear program, and bilateral issues, including the Nord Stream-2 pipeline project, Itar Tass reported.

The talks were also attended by Russian Presidential Aide Yuri Ushakov and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who is also deputy head of the presidential administration.

 In the run-up to the talks, Putin called for assistance to Syrian regions, where refugees who fled terrorism to neighboring countries may soon return.

Speaking about issues up for discussion at the meeting, Putin said he and Merkel would "definitely discuss the situation in the Middle East, first of all, in the context of Syria."

"It is important to boost the humanitarian element of the Syrian settlement, first of all in the context of humanitarian aid to the people of Syria, and of assistance to regions, where refugees, who are now abroad, may soon start returning," the Russian leader said, stressing that he was speaking about refugees who had fled to bordering countries, not European states.

According to Putin, millions of Syrian refugees have taken shelter in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

The Russian president said that in order to help those people return to their homes, basic infrastructure should be rebuilt in their home regions, including water supplies, sewage systems and healthcare facilities. He said the return of refugees back to their home country would benefit everyone, including Europe.

"This [the refugee issue] has the potential of becoming a heavy burden for Europe," Putin said. "That’s why everything should be done in order to help those people return to their homes."

Merkel, in her turn, said ahead of the talks that "the hostilities have subsided, but it is yet too early to speak about the return to peaceful life."

She stressed the need of re-launching the political process in Syria and of holding a constitutional reform and elections in the country.

"In this respect, we support the work of UN Secretary General Special Envoy on Syria [Staffan] de Mistura," she said.

Putin stresses importance of Iranian nuclear deal

The Russian President also stressed the importance of maintaining Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear program.

He said that he was going to discuss this issue with his counterpart during the upcoming meeting.

"We will discuss the situation around the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for the settlement of the Iranian nuclear program. Of course, this cannot be omitted. It is extremely important to maintain this multilateral agreement, approved by the UN Security Council, aimed at strengthening regional and global security and the nuclear non-proliferation regime," Putin said.

In 2015, Iran and six major powers (five member states of the United Nations Security Council - Russia, the United States, France, the United Kingdom and China - and Germany) agreed on the final Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It provides for the lifting of sanctions imposed on Iran in connection with its nuclear program. In exchange Tehran was obliged to place its nuclear program under international control.

On May 8, 2018, US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of Washington from the agreement.