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Putin, Merkel Align Goals on Libya and Russian Gas for Germany

Arne Delfs and Ilya Arkhipov

(Bloomberg) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel found common ground over peace efforts in Libya and on upholding a nuclear pact with Iran that the U.S. ditched.

After more than three hours of talks with Putin in Moscow on Saturday, Merkel said they share the goal of holding United Nations talks on Libya in Berlin.

“We have agreed that we will soon be able to issue invitations to a conference in Berlin,” Merkel told reporters. Putin said he supports Merkel’s initiative. German officials have cited Jan. 19 as a tentative date for the meeting.

While their strategic interests differ, both leaders say they want to curb Libya’s factional fighting and bring the Nord Stream 2 natural-gas pipeline to completion in defiance of U.S. sanctions. That contrasts with the estrangement between Merkel and Putin over Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its backing of pro-Moscow separatist fighters in Ukraine.

Putin, who previously met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said he expects a planned cease-fire in Libya to take effect on Sunday. Russia and Turkey are backing opposing sides in Libya, though Putin denied on Saturday that Russia was militarily involved in Libya.

If there are Russian mercenaries in Libya, they don’t represent “Russian state interests,” he said.

“I am counting very much that in a few hours the conflicting sides in Libya will stop military actions, as we urged with President Erdogan,” Putin said.

On the escalation of U.S.-Iranian tensions, Putin said a war in the wider Middle East would be a global “catastrophe.”

He and Merkel expressed continued support for the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, which U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned unilaterally in May 2018.

To contact the reporters on this story: Arne Delfs in Berlin at adelfs@bloomberg.net;Ilya Arkhipov in Moscow at iarkhipov@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: James Ludden at jludden@bloomberg.net, Tony Czuczka

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