Germany's Angela Merkel plans meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin amid Syria crisis

The German chancellor has partially blamed Russia for a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria. But the Kremlin said that despite their differences, Moscow would "continue bilateral contacts" with Berlin.
Deutschland Xi Jinpings Besuch | Angela Merkel (picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Schreiber)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday that she would meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin "in the foreseeable future" amid heightened tensions between Moscow and the West over the conflict in Syria.
Following a phone call with Putin, Merkel laid partial blame on Russia for a suspected chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town earlier this month believed to have been staged by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The German chancellor said that "as an ally of Assad," Moscow "has a joint responsibility" in the use of chemical weapons on Syrian soil. Her comments were made during a during a joint press conference with her New Zealand counterpart, Jacinda Ardern.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel smiling towards Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron
Despite their differences, Merkel and Putin have maintained open communication between Moscow and Berlin
'Substantially damaged' peace
In its statement on the call, the Kremlin did not mention a possible meeting between the political leaders. However, it said that airstrikes launched by the US, France and the UK threatened the Syrian peace process.
"The Russia president stressed once again that the actions by a group of Western countries, which committed an act of aggression against Syria, grossly violated the norms of international law, including the UN Charter, and substantially damaged the peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis," it said in a statement.
However, the Kremlin noted that Moscow and Berlin will "continue bilateral contacts on the issue" since "both sides expressed willingness to facilitate the resumption of the political and diplomatic efforts on the Syrian dossier."
'Putin's closest negotiating partner'
Having grown up in the former East Germany, Merkel speaks fluent Russian while Putin, a former KGB agent stationed in Dresden, speaks fluent German. Analysts believe Merkel is one of the best-positioned political leaders to mediate talks between Moscow and the West.
"Angela Merkel is not only Putin's closest negotiating partner in Europe but also stipulated the force behind the sanctions on Russia," said Katie Shonk, a research associate at Harvard University, earlier this year.
"Merkel remains the West's best hope for convincing Putin to end Russian aggression in Ukraine – and abandon any thoughts he may have of launching adventures elsewhere."
Both political leaders also discussed the Ukrainian conflict and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would create further European dependence on Russian energy.