In a show of growing friendship, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin dropped in for lunch at German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s home on Sunday.
Vladimir Putin and Gerhard Schröder after lunch in Hanover
On his way back from Greece, Putin made a short stopover in Germany for informal talks with the German Chancellor. Meeting at Schröder’s private residence in Hanover, the two leaders reportedly talked about the future of Afghanistan and the current situation in the Middle East, agreeing that pressure must be put on both Israel and Palestine to reach a truce.
The two leaders have developed a good rapport over the last several months. At the beginning of November Schröder was in Moscow for a brief visit with Putin on his way back from a one-week tour of Pakistan, India and China.
As for Putin, it was his second visit to Germany in four months, but decidedly more informal than his September tour when he impressed the German parliament by holding a speech largely in German.
Dressed casually, as if stopping in to see an old friend, Putin complimented the German leader on his "modest, but very comfortable" home. Putin said he appreciated that the Schröders had lit four candles on their traditional advent ring, even though it was only the second Advent in December.
Schröder reciprocated the friendly compliments by saying, "I can hardly think of a more pleasant way to spend a Sunday morning."
Neither one of the leaders made statements regarding their talks, saying only they had discussed current world issues.
Putin acknowledged Germany’s role in last weeks talks on creating an interim Afghan government. "You cannot reach a situation with which everyone is 100 percent satisfied, but I think the accord was the optimal outcome that could have been reached," Putin said.
In the meantime, US Secretary of State Colin Powell has arrived in Russia for a more formal round of talks with the Russian president starting Monday. In addition to the almost certain subjects of Afghanistan and the Middle East, Powell is expected to address the difficult Russian-US position on missile defense. Moscow’s cooperation with NATO and its bid to enter the World Trade Organization are also likely to be on the agenda.