May 18, 2018
Angela Merkel is meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin as Donald Trump puts her under pressure to pull out of the lucrative Nord Stream 2 deal.

The German Chancellor has embarked on her first trip to Russia in a year in an attempt to smooth over relations between Mr Putin and the West.
Arriving in the early afternoon at the residence of the Russian President in Sochi, she was welcomed by the leader with a bouquet of flowers.
But she is in a difficult position, after being told by Donald Trump to pull out of the lucrative Nord Stream 2 offshore gas pipeline project, which will bring gas directly from Russia via the Baltic Sea.
Ms Merkel is also under pressure to discuss Putin’s support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, the crumbling Iran nuclear deal, from which US President Donald Trump pulled out earlier this month, and key human rights issues.
One US official told the Wall Street Journal: “Donald Trump is a deal maker...there is a deal to be made if someone in Germany stood up and said ‘Help us protect our auto industry a little bit more, because we’re great at it and we’re going to help you on Nord Stream 2.”
But earlier today Germany’s Economic Minister Peter Altmaier defended the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Accusing Washington of wanting to bloc the deal to boost its own share of gas exports, he said hours before the meeting: "They are looking for markets, which we can understand, and they can land it here easily.
"But it is much more expensive than pipeline gas, so blocking Nord Stream 2 on its own won't guarantee exports."
The meaty agenda for Ms Merkel's trip to the Black Sea resort of Sochi will also focus on Moscow’s military support to Assad and the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.
Flowers for Merkel as pair meet on back of Trump pressure

In 2017, Germany joined other G7 leaders in a formal condemnation of the annexation, which was branded “illegal” in a statement.
And in April German officials met with their French, British and American counterparts to coordinate actions following the Western air strikes against Syria undertaken by Paris, London and Washington.
In that occasion, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas recognised how vital the role of Russia was in the peace process.
He said: “Whether we like it or not, without Russia, the political process will not succeed.”
And Ms Merkel is also being closely watched by human rights organisation, which hope her visit to Sochi will be an occasion to press Mr Putin to release Oyub Titiev, a detained Russian human rights defender.
Flowers for Merkel as pair meet on back of Trump pressure
Flowers for Merkel as pair meet on back of Trump pressure
Mr Titiev, who has been held prisoner since January 9, is the director of the leading Russian human rights organisation Memorial in Grozny, Chechnya and is facing a 10-year sentence as the police accused him of finding drug in his car.
Wenzel Michalski, Germany director at Human Rights Watch, said: “A phone call from President Putin to the Chechen authorities could ensure Oyub Titiev’s freedom.
“Merkel should urge Putin to ensure that Titiev is released before the start of the World Cup.”
As several high-profile prisoners were granted a pardon ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, activists hope the Kremlin will act in a similar way before the Russian football game.
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