Germany's Merkel wants better EU ties with Russia-led economic bloc

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Thursday for an end to tensions with Russia and for boosting ties between the European Union and the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union after years of conflict between the EU and Moscow over Ukraine.

"It's true that we have some work ahead of us, but I support this in principle," Merkel said on a visit to Kyrgyzstan designed to bolster economic relations with the Central Asian nation ahead of a Eurasian summit in Mongolia this weekend.

"If there is goodwill all around, then we can do it, and then we will focus on other topics again," Merkel said.

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev agreed, saying, "as a Eurasian country, we feel the consequences of the conflict in Ukraine and the crisis between Russia and the EU, and we want all sides to find a compromise as soon as possible," according to the Interfax news agency.

Kyrgyzstan is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, a Moscow-dominated trade bloc of several former Soviet republics.

Atambayev told Merkel that there should be a common economic zone from Lisbon to Vladivostok, encompassing the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union.

Relations between Russia, which is a major power in former Soviet Eurasia, and the West plummeted to a post-Cold War low a couple of years ago because of the conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia's annexation of southern Ukraine's Crimea region.

Merkel, who is expected to meet with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at the Eurasian summit this weekend, expressed confidence on Thursday that Russia and the West can work out their issues and restore prosperous economic relations.

Germany, which is one of Russia's biggest trade partners, has also been a main promoter of sanctions against the country because of the Ukraine crisis.

The two-day Asia–Europe Meeting in the Mongolian capital, to begin on Friday, is expected to be dominated by China's recent manoeuvring for control of much of the South China Sea.

Merkel, ahead of her visit to the Kyrgyz capital, had a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week to discuss Ukraine and the Western military alliance NATO, according to a Kremlin statement.

Russia's official reaction to a recent NATO summit, at which the alliance announced plans to deploy more troops to the Baltic states, seemed calmer than usual, as Russia's relations with the West are appearing to thaw.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was in Moscow on Thursday, reportedly to discuss military collaboration against terrorists in Syria.

Last update: Thu, 14/07/2016 - 18:38

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