Steinmeier to visit Moscow before Kerry

Steinmeier to visit Moscow before Kerry

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is to visit Russia. The official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, said that talks between the Foreign Ministers of Russia and Germany will be held in Moscow on 23 February.

"The talks between Steinmeier and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will be held in the capital of Russia. They will continue to exchange views on key international issues, including the implementation of the Minsk agreements on Ukraine and the situation in Syria," TASS cited Zakharova as saying.

Recall that US Secretary of State John Kerry also plans to visit Russia. Maria Zakharova clarified that the US-Russian talks will take place next week, but the exact date of the visit is being agreed.

The director of the Center for Political Information, Alexei Mukhin, expects that the main topics of the negotiations will be the Syrian conflict and the migration crisis in Europe. "In addition, they will probably discuss at least partial restoration of relations in the trade-economic sphere. I mean, first of all, the Nord Stream-2 project. Other themes will likely be aimed at further strengthening of the US military presence in Germany and Russia's concerns in this regard," the analyst said.

Alexei Mukhin added that it's the initiative of the EU to restore the previous level of EU-Russian relations. "The European Union joined the anti-Russian sanctions and now it is struggling with the economic and social consequences of this decision. All initiatives should come from the European Union. As I understand the logic of the statements of the Russian leadership, Russia is open to Brussels. As Sergey Lavrov says, we are implementing our agreements," he stressed.

The President of the International Union of Experts, Professor Alexander Gusev, said in a conversation with a correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza that there are many issues requiring discussion between Moscow and Berlin, but the main topic of the talks will be the settlement of the situation in Ukraine.

"First of all, they will talk about the European sanctions prolonged until 15 September 2016. Of course Steinmeier as a foreign minister will discuss this question with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia," he said.

"In the future, the current situation in Ukraine should also be discussed in the framework of the 'Normandy format'. The Minsk agreements were prolonged in 2016, but we see that Kiev does almost nothing," Gusev said. According to the President of the International Union of Experts, Lavrov and Steinmeier will also discuss the situation in Kiev.

The situation in Syria will be included on the agenda of the talks as well. "Germany is one of the leading countries in Western Europe, it is a member of the North Atlantic bloc, so one should take its interests in the Middle East region into account," the expert noted.

The ministers will also discuss issues related to the upcoming presidential elections in the United States. "Both Germany and Russia are showing a certain interest in what is happening in the US now, because elections in Germany are expected in September 2017 and the US presidential elections will be held on November 8th 2016. And both US-German and German-Russian relations will depend on the US elections result," the President of the International Union of Experts stressed.

"There is still a number of smaller issues, which, of course, will also be discussed during the forthcoming visit. I mean the Nord Stream-2 and the South Stream projects," he added.

Gusev said that Steinmeier's visit to Moscow can be regarded as a landmark event: his position now is very strong in Germany and many see him as Angela Merkel's successor.

At the same time, the professor doesn't think that the visits of Steinmeier and Kerry can be regarded as a single overall negotiating process to resolve the situation in Ukraine.

"If US-Russian relations improve, then it will spread to Russian-German, Russian-French and Russian-British relations," Alexander Gusev concluded.

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