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Merkel and Abe discuss Ukraine crisis and trade

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japan's premier, Shinzo Abe, have said industrial powers would "stand united on further sanctions against Russia if needed." They made the joint statement after talks in Berlin.

Speaking to reporters in the German capital on Wednesday, Merkel and Abe made their position clear on the

Ukraine crisis.

The two leaders took a united stand on the issue of further sanctions against Russia, despite the possibility Moscow could retaliate against foreign

energy companies

.

Merkel told waiting reporters in Berlin that the release of international monitors being held by pro-Russia activists in the eastern Ukraine town of Slovyansk would be a sign of Moscow's cooperation on the crisis.

"This would be a signal of de-escalation," Merkel said, but she added that Russia needed to do more, including helping ensure Ukraine held a planned presidential election on May 25.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also said the Ukraine crisis had implications for Asia, describing it as "a global problem."

Talks move from diplomacy to trade

High on the agenda at the talks was trade. Merkel said the EU and Japan should be able to sign a trade deal next year.

The German chancellor also expressed the hope that Japan would win its long battle against deflation, adding that

Europe

did not face the same immediate threat and had no need to adopt Japanese-style stimulus measures.

A trade agreement with the world's third-biggest economy would have "considerable meaning" for an export nation like Germany, Merkel told the joint press conference.

Brussels and Tokyo started negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement in April 2013.

Brussels is expected to decide next month on the continuation of free trade talks with Japan.

Germany's willingness to strengthen cooperation in the energy sector was also a key issue, along with security and the role of the international community in territorial disputes.

lw/kms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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