Merkel, Putin talks in Moscow cover Libya, Middle East, Ukraine

German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on Saturday for talks set to cover topics including turmoil in Libya and the Syria conflict as well as Ukraine's war with pro-Russian separatists, news wires reported. "There is a lot to discuss," said Merkel, adding that "talking with one another is always better than talking about one another."The leaders were set to give a press conference afterwards.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who accompanied Merkel, said a "key reason" for the meeting was the escalating crisis in Libya, where Berlin is acting as a mediator in a conflict he has warned could become a "second Syria". "We are involving Europe and those players who are influential there, for that we need Russia," Maas told Germany's NTV television. "For us, it's not too far to fly to Moscow to discuss that with Putin." Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a ceasefire in Libya on Wednesday, although they are seen as supporting opposing sides in the conflict.

The Kremlin has said the talks will also cover the "escalation of tensions" after the US killed top Iranian commander General Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike close to Baghdad. Putin warned the killing could "seriously aggravate the situation in the region".

The visit by Merkel was her first to Russia since May 2018 when the leaders met at Putin's Black Sea residence. Merkel is to invite Putin to a Berlin conference on Libya later this month, diplomatic sources told AFP.

The Moscow meeting with Merkel also comes after Putin in December took part in talks on the Ukraine conflict in Paris in the "Normandy format" hosted by Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. This was his first face-to-face meeting with his recently-installed Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky.

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