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Seehofer calls for better German-Russian ties

February 3, 2016

One of Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition partners - and staunchest critics - has ended talks with Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Horst Seehofer has said Germany and Russia must work together to rebuild trust.

Seehofer and Putin
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Hoppe

Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer on Wednesday pushed for warmer relations with Russia in the wake of a controversial meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

"We want to make an honest contribution to the rebuilding of trust and normality in a difficult political environment," Seehofer said following the talks, according to German news agency dpa.

Putin thanked the Bavarian politician for coming to Moscow.

"Today's problems affect all of us," the Russian leader said. "We are aware of your position and your intent to strive for normalization of relations."

Ties between Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have been at a nadir since Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014, a move to which the EU responded by slapping sanctions on Russia.

Economic interests at stake

Both Putin and Seehofer said their meeting was not meant to undermine Merkel. Nonetheless, Seehofer's trip has been a noticeable irritation for the chancellor. In recent months, Seehofer, who heads the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, has also become one of the most vocal critics of Merkel's open-door refugee policy.

Seehofer also emphasized that it was his duty to represent Bavarian interests: 20 percent of Russian-German trade is with Bavaria, and the premier said sanctions leveled at Russia have hurt Bavarian businesses.

"The dialogue must not stop," Seehofer was quoted as saying by dpa. "Russia is a very important trading partner for us."

blc/sms (dpa, AFP)