2006-10-13 Uwe Hessler
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The annual bilateral deliberations aimed at fostering Russian-German ties

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold a news conference after bilateral talks in Dresden on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2006. Putin and Merkel will also join the two-days German-Russian Petersburg Dialogue conference in the eastern German city. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold a news conference after bilateral talks in Dresden on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2006. Putin and Merkel will also join the two-days German-Russian Petersburg Dialogue conference in the eastern German city. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Energy, security, North Korea's nuclear crisis and the killing of a leading Russian investigative reporter have dominated talks between German chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian president Vladimir Putin. The two leaders met in the Eastern German city of Dresden on Tuesday for anual bilateral deliberations aimed at fostering Russian-German ties. Uwe Hessler has the details.

Vladimir Putin has described visits to Dresden as feeling like going home. The Russian president was based in the Eastern German city in the 1980s, as an agent of the former Soviet Union's KGB intelligence service. Angela Merkel, however, was less inclined to give president Putin an enthusiastic homecoming as concerns about press freedom and human rights were on her mind. The German chancellor expressed her shock and dismay at the contract-style killing at the weekend of Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian investigative journalist and prominent Putin critic. Following their meeting Vladimir Putin told the German press that everything would be done to track down the killers.

Russian president Vladimir Putin, right, looks on while German chancellor Angela Merkel gestures during the unveiling of the memorial of Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky in Dresden, eastern Germany, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2006. Russian President Vladimir Putin met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday for talks about Iran's nuclear program and growing Russian-German economic ties, revisiting the city where he once served as a KGB spy. (AP Photo/Eckehard Schulz)Russian president Vladimir Putin, right, looks on while German chancellor Angela Merkel gestures during the unveiling of the memorial of Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky in Dresden, eastern Germany, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2006. Russian President Vladimir Putin met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday for talks about Iran's nuclear program and growing Russian-German economic ties, revisiting the city where he once served as a KGB spy. (AP Photo/Eckehard Schulz)
„I'd like to stress that we consider this murder as an abominable crime, he says. She was without a doubt a journalist who was highly critical of the government but her killing has damaged Russia's reputation much more than her articles. All I can say is that we will do everything to bring the perpetrators to justice."

An undertone of German concern was also perceptible at the talks over this country's dependency on Russian supplies of oil and gas. Memories of disruptions of Russian gas supplies to Europe still rankled with the German chancellor. However, Angela Merkel said she trusted Russia as a reliable business partner.

„It is important for me to have realized that we are acting on the same business principles as the Russian government in this cooperation, she says. We are currently working out a joint charter in which these principles will be enshrined. As a matter of fact, I'm not reluctant either to accept Russia's increasing importance in the business world which is being reflected in the fact that Russian companies are buying themselves into European firms."

Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, listens during a press conference in Dresden, Germany, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2006 (AP Photo/Matthias Rietschel)Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, listens during a press conference in Dresden, Germany, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2006 (AP Photo/Matthias Rietschel)
The series of routine meetings of German and Russian leaders is known as the "Petersburg Dialogue Forum", named after the Russian city where the first meeting was held in 2001. This year the talks also covered issues such as the Middle East conflict, developments in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans as well as the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea. Both leaders denounced last weekend's explosion of a nuclear device by North Korea as an irresponsible act.

They called on the international community to keep a wary eye on developments there. Mr Putin, however, did not comment on whether his government would support sanctions again North Korea. On the sidelines of their meeting the two leaders oversaw the signing of a raft of business deals. Russia's oil wealth has made companies from the country potent investors also in the German economy. Somewhat unusual evidence of that was a one-hundred million euro football sponsorship deal bertween the German Bundesliga club Schalke 04 and Russian oil giant Gazprom that was also signed on Tuesday.

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anna politkovskaja, journalism, russia, stockholm, sweden

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