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15 Oct, 2007 16:38

Russia and Germany have 'common goals'

On the final day of their two-day summit in Wiesbaden, the leaders of Russia and Germany said that the two countries are moving closer together on a range of issues and share many common goals.

Although a range of global problems was discussed, the governments of Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel spent most of their time working on trade and business ties between Russia and Germany – the main focus of the annual summit.

Predictably enough, energy took centre stage.  And joint projects such as the Nord Stream gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea received much attention.  The controversial pipeline will pump gas directly to Europe from Russia, bypassing the so-called transit states.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel underlined Germany's commitment to the pipeline, saying she wanted it up and running as soon as possible.

“We spoke a lot about the Nord Stream pipeline project. Germany supports it and wants it finished,” she said.  

Stressing a huge rise in business between the two nations, the German Chancellor went on to announce some specific areas of increased investment.

“And now we are going to increase the co-operation in automobile industry in order to provide new quality to it. Important steps were also taken in the field of research. And there are some initiatives in the field of airplane production,” Angela Merkel said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin echoed his German counterpart, pointing other areas of potential growth.

“I draw your attention to the fact that in the first half of this year the trade turnover as compared to the similar period of 2006 has increased by 13.5 per cent and comes to almost $US 23 BLN. German investments in the Russian economy are growing, including the energy sector,” he said.

A number of international issues were slated for discussion at the Wiesbaden talks.

These included U.S. plans to build an anti-missile defence shield in Eastern Europe – a move fiercely opposed by Moscow.  

Discussions were also held on the future status of Kosovo, Serbia's breakaway republic.

But most attention was devoted to Iran's controversial nuclear programme.  Many western states, including Germany, are calling for more UN sanctions to be slapped on Iran if it refuses to suspend uranium enrichment.

Vladimir Putin flies to Tehran from Germany to take part in summit of Caspian Sea states.

Mr Putin says the success the world had in dealing with the North Korean nuclear threat can be repeated with the Iranians.

“Let’s remember the emotional discussion around the North Korean nuclear programme. We can see positive changes on the Korean Peninsula. The same should be applied to the Iranian nuclear programme. Intimidating anyone – in this case, the Iranian leadership or the Iranian people – is useless,” Vladimir Putin said.  

Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, insisted that tougher sanctions were still an option.  

“The Russian president will soon speak to the Iranian leadership in order to bring transparency, to check whether Iran is meeting the demands of the UN Security Council resolution. So that if we see it is not, we can introduce new sanctions. We must not implement sanctions immediately. We should do everything we can first,” she said.

Domestic policy in Russia was raised at a news conference held by the two leaders. Commenting on the probe into the murder of Journalist Anna Politkovskaya, President Putin said the law must be allowed to take its course.  

“The Prosecutor General declared the investigation is in its final stage, and I think that is how it is. I think the investigation is heading in the right direction. The question remains: who ordered the killing. But I don’t think that during the investigation of such cases we should jump ahead of ourselves. We can be satisfied only when the court has passed its verdict. Until that moment everyone should be considered innocent,” Mr Putin stressed.

Answering a question about next year's presidential election in Russia, Vladimir Putin said power will be transferred in a transparent way.

“Russia will not only observe the letter of the law of the constitution but its spirit. But it doesn’t mean the existing authorities do not have the right to participate in the political life of the country. It’s up to the Russian electorate to decide if this or that person can participate in this work,” he said.