Putin says will speak to Merkel about cancellation of key forum

14th October 2014, Comments 0 comments

President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday he would speak to German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week about the cancellation of a key bilateral forum that has served to promote ties between the two countries.

The Russian president spoke after his human rights adviser complained about the cancellation of the prominent civil society forum that was scheduled to take place in Russia in late October.

The cancellation appears to be a further snub to Russia which is struggling with its most pronounced isolation since the end of the Cold War as the West punishes Moscow over its role in the Ukraine crisis.

First held in Russia's second city Saint Petersburg in 2001, the "Petersburg Forum" has been designed to bring together civil society representatives from the two countries and has often seen German and Russian leaders meet on the sidelines.

Germany's Der Spiegel magazine reported this week that a number of NGOs wrote to Merkel and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, saying that they were refusing to take part in the forum in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi.

According to the Spiegel report, NGOs including Greenpeace, Amnesty and the Heinrich Boell Foundation, said in the letter that they "don't want to take part in putting up a Potemkin facade called 'Civil Society Dialogue'."

Addressing Putin at a meeting in the Kremlin, the Kremlin's rights advisor said the cancellation of the forum was a "mistake."

"When the situation is tense, when the situation is complicated, such dialogue is needed more than ever," Mikahil Fedotov said.

"This is wrong, we should speak to each other. Our history has already seen an 'Iron Curtain'. We've seen this all before. Why repeat this?"

Putin said he would raise the issue with Merkel later this week when he is expected to travel to Milan for a key summit.

"I will tell the chancellor about it. We will see each other in Milan in several days and will talk."

At the same time he appeared nonchalant, saying the German side believed it was best to postpone the event so as not to "harm this process."

"Such is the logic of our German partners but I guess there's some rationale behind this."

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to say on Tuesday whether Putin had been scheduled to meet Merkel on the sidelines of the now-scrapped forum in Sochi.

At their meeting on the sidelines of the forum in November 2012 the two leaders famously clashed over the jailing of feminist rock band Pussy Riot.

© 2014 AFP

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