'Perfect talks in a perfect atmosphere': Merkel
27 April 2006, TOMSK - German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave the thumbs up Thursday after two days of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin that were laden with tricky issues like energy supplies and international handling of the Iranian nuclear crisis.
27 April 2006
TOMSK - German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave the thumbs up Thursday after two days of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin that were laden with tricky issues like energy supplies and international handling of the Iranian nuclear crisis.
"Perfect talks in a perfect atmosphere," Merkel said after broad discussions in the western Siberian city of Tomsk.
"Our cooperation is becoming not only partnership-based but also strategic," the Russian leader agreed.
Although this was her second meeting with the Kremlin boss on his home turf, Merkel was still regarded as being in the shadow of the close relationship he had with her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder.
When they met Wednesday, Putin joked that he and Merkel, who has a doctorate in physics, needed to work "a bit of chemistry" together as they got down to business.
But the tense atmosphere of the first visit in January contrasted with their meetings in Tomsk, where the leaders were far more relaxed, exchanging jokes with each other, sometimes in the other's language.
Putin learned fluent German as a KGB agent working in former East Germany, while Merkel learned Russian at school in the erstwhile communist country.
Importantly, Merkel returned to Berlin with a guarantee from Putin that Russia will honour long-term obligations in energy exports to Germany and the EU, despite earlier warnings that it will reorientate its oil and gas to eastern markets.
Noting that Russia had been a reliable supplier of energy to Germany for 40 years, Merkel said, "I can assume it will carry on this way."
Among agreements signed, Germany's BASF-Wintershall inked a deal giving it 25 per cent minus one share in the gas field that will feed the North European Gas Pipeline (NEGP). The project will pump Siberian gas to Germany and other European countries.
E.ON-Ruhrgas is expected to receive an equal share in the Yuzhno- Russkoye field in the coming weeks, also in exchange for a stake in subsidiary assets. The Russian state-owned gas monopolist Gazprom will hold a controlling stake in the gas field venture.
In discussions of international issues, the leaders called for further efforts towards reaching a diplomatic solution to the nuclear crisis around Iran.
"We are interested in concerted actions by the international community," Merkel told journalists a day before the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) presents a potentially damning report on the Iranian activities.
Putin stressed that the IAEA must retain a central role in resolving the stand-off with Tehran and not simply pass the problem to the United Nations Security Council.
Russia, China, the United States, France, Britain and Germany have pooled efforts in a bid to dissuade Iran from its nuclear course.
While all six agree on the need to prevent Tehran acquiring nuclear weapons, Russia and China oppose the use of sanctions.
Subject: German news