Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the European Union to help rebuild Syria so that millions of refugees can return back home. He also called on European leaders to step up the humanitarian efforts while meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel north of Berlin. “By that, I mean above all humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, and help the regions where refugees living abroad can return to.”
President Putin specified that there were 1 million refugees in Jordan, the same number in Lebanon and 3 million in Turkey. Germany has accepted hundreds of thousands of migrants since the peak of the migrant crisis in 2015, which ultimately strained relations within the EU and put pressure on Angela Merkel’s own government. “This is potentially a huge burden for Europe,” Mr. Putin said. “That’s why we have to do everything to get these people back home,” he added, stressing the need to restore the most rudimentary services such as potable water supplies and healthcare while Ms. Merkel reiterated that the priority in Syria was “to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe”.
Among other issues, both leaders discussed the Crimea crisis, which “unfortunately does not advance at all”, as Mr. Putin commented. Ms. Merkel added that the Minsk agreements, a peace process under the auspices of Berlin and Paris, aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine, remained at a standstill. In an apparent effort to bring attention to the absence of a “stable ceasefire”, Chancellor Merkel also expressed her hope that UN peacekeepers would be stationed in the conflict-torn region to oversee ceasefire bids under German and French mediation. Earlier, her foreign minister Heiko Maas said he was “relatively optimistic about the chances of a United Nations mission”, stressing that the German government wanted to give a new dynamic to the Minsk process.