Schroeder, Putin talks focus on Mideast

2nd April 2004, Comments 0 comments

2 April 2004, BERLIN - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will have talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin late Friday in Moscow dominated by the Middle East and European Union issues, officials said.

2 April 2004

BERLIN - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will have talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin late Friday in Moscow dominated by the Middle East and European Union issues, officials said.

Schroeder will be the first Western leader to meet Putin since the Russian leader's re-election victory last month. French President Jacques Chirac is expected in Moscow on Saturday.

In addition to the Arab-Israeli conflict and Afghanistan, the two leaders will discuss 1 May enlargement of the European Union in which 10 mainly former East Bloc states and parts of the former Soviet Union will join the EU.

Moscow is concerned both about being shut out economically from these countries and is also unhappy that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - all former Soviet Republics - are now part of NATO.

Ties between Putin and West European states have cooled in recent months due to concerns over democratic deficits in Russia and the concentration of power around Putin, diplomats say.

Chancellor Schroeder has built a close political friendship with President Putin and the two men meet regularly. The Russian leader served as a KGB officer in former East Germany from 1985 to 1990 and speaks fluent German.

Nevertheless, Schroeder agreed earlier this year with the leaders of EU heavyweights France and Britain to push for a more activist EU policy toward Russia after the elections.

The German leader is also expected to raise the sensitive issue of Russian war booty seized in Germany in 1945 after the Nazi defeat.

Berlin is seeking the return of art treasures, archives and other historic items.

Russia says it views the war booty as reparations for the huge devastation inflicted on Russia by Nazi Germany during World War II.

Schroeder will fly back from Moscow late Friday and on Sunday leaves for Italy where he will spend the Easter holiday and on April 7 celebrate his 60th birthday.


DPA
Subject: German news

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