Vladimir Putin called on Europe to rebuild Syria so that refugees can return

Vastavam web: Russian President Vladimir Putin called on Europe to financially contribute to the reconstruction of Syria to allow millions of refugees to return home. “We need to strengthen the humanitarian effort in the Syrian conflict,” he said yesterday ahead of a meeting with his German counterpart Angela Merkel at the government retreat of Meseberg castle 70kms (45 miles) north of Berlin.

“By that, I mean above all humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, and help the regions where refugees living abroad can return to. “Germany has accepted hundreds of thousands of migrants since 2015 the height of the migration crisis which has weakened Angela Merkel politically and split the European Union. “This is potentially a huge burden for Europe,” Putin said. “That’s why we have to do everything to get these people back home,” he added, emphasising the need to properly restore basic services such as water supplies and healthcare.

The Minsk agreements, a peace process sponsored by Germany and France aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine, is at a standstill, Merkel said, pointing at the absence of a “stable ceasefire”. A United Nations mission on the ground, which will be discussed during the talks, “could perhaps play a pacifying role” in the region, she said. Earlier, Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas said he was “relatively optimistic about the chances of a United Nations mission”, telling the Die Welt newspaper: “We want to give a new dynamic to the Minsk process.”

Russia and Germany are partners in the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, a project criticised by US President Donald Trump due to Berlin’s reliance on Moscow. Ukraine worries that the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline from Russia to Germany will transport gas now flowing through its territory and deprive it of crucial transit fees. Russia has shut off gas supplies to Ukraine in the past, having knock-on effects in the European Union.

“Ukraine must, in my opinion, play a role in the transit of gas to Europe”, even after the start of Nord Stream 2 in 2019, the German Chancellor said. “I want to stress here that Nord Stream 2 is only an economic project and it does not close the door to the continuation of gas transit through the territory of Ukraine,” he said.