Merkel arrives in Russia for talks with Moscow leaders

Merkel arrives in Russia for talks with Moscow leaders

German Chancellor Angela Merkel accompanied by several cabinet members arrived Wednesday in the Urals city of Ekaterinburg for top-level talks with Russian leaders, dpa reported.

   Merkel in remarks previewing the talks with President Dmitry Medvedev, said the meetings come as both sides want to achieve a close partnership.

   "German-Russian relations are very, very good," she said on her arrival, adding that reliable and friendly ties with Russia were in Germany's interest.

   Disputes between Germany and Russia were not expected for discussion, Merkel said, although she would be bringing up human rights issues.

"We will also discuss domestic political problems and about various issues which have to do with human rights," the Berlin leader said. "But also about research, education and health."

The main thrust of the talks were expected to concern expanding economic and scientific cooperation, as well as international issues, Merkel said.

It was in Germany's interest "that we do business, that we make profits and that we cooperate more intensively," she said in previewing the business deals in the making. The cooperation also included the area of security.

Parallel to her flight to Russia, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle flew in separately for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

Westerwelle also insisted that critical questions such as human rights issues were being discussed.

"We are pursuing a strategically planned, comprehensive policy on Russia which leaves no untouched areas, also including human rights," he said. "This topic is also a regular part of our discussions."

German delegation sources said Westerwelle's talks with Lavrov, besides human rights, also concerned the conflict in Transnistri, the region which has broken away from Moldowa, security cooperation between Russia and the European Union, and disarmament issues.

Lavrov was quoted as saying during a second toast of vodka: "To a solution to all conflicts."

After the talks in Russia, Merkel will be heading to China, while Westerwelle is to travel to Uzbekistan.

Prior to Merkel's departure Russian Vice-Premier Viktor Subkov commented Wednesday that "in many respects the future development of Russian-German relations are dependent" on the talks.

  During the visit, German engineering giant Siemens is to sign a major deal with the Russian state railways to supply more than 200 regional trains, government sources in Berlin said. The deal would be worth 2.2 billion euros (2.8 billion dollars).

   In countries where governments closely supervise the economy, business people often sign a memorandum of understanding with national leaders watching as a way of showing that the deal has the highest level of support.

   A news report in Germany said Merkel would also lobby Russia to ease its hostility to the planned Nabucco gas pipeline across Turkey. Moscow opposes the project to ship Caspian gas westwards because it would compete with pipelines via Russia.

German Economics Minister Rainer Bruederle, travelling with Merkel, told the German newspaper Handelsblatt that Germany needed a wide selection of suppliers of heating gas. The paper said Merkel would tell Russia that Germany wanted Nabucco built.

   Regarding human rights issues, Merkel was urged by the journalists group Reporters Without Borders to seek discussion on the case of Natalya Estemirova, a human rights activist who was murdered in Ingushetia on July 15, 2009.

   "The promise to clear up this murder has so far remained onl lip service," a Reporters Without Borders statement said Wednesday.

   Merkel's trip will also include a stop in Kazakhstan on Sunday on her way back home.

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