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Putin asks for impartial investigation into Syrian attack

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a wreath laying ceremony at the Unknown Soldiers's Tomb on May 10, 2015 in Moscow, Russia.
Alexander Aksakov | Getty Images

Russia President Vladimir Putin asked for an impartial investigation into an alleged chemical attack in Syria that raised sensitivities within most Western capitals.

Speaking at a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin said that Russia condemns the use of chemical weapons and there should be an impartial investigation into what happened in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria.

Western leaders, including U.S.President Donald Trump, have asked Russia to stop supporting the Syrian regime led by Bashar al-Assad. They blame it for dropping bombs containing the nerve agent Sarin during an attack last month.

Putin told reporters that he agreed on the need for more active talks to resolve the Syrian war.

Merkel and Putin also discussed the conflict in Ukraine which has dragged on for several years, after Russia's annexation of Crimea. Putin said that such a conflict is a concern and confirmed the need for an implementation of the Minsk agreement by all sides. The deal, between Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine, for a ceasefire was reached 2015. Yet the fighting in Ukraine has continued.

Crucial moment for Russia-German relations

Tuesday's meeting took place at what's seen as a crucial moment for Russia-German relations.

Two years after Merkel's last visit to Russia, Berlin is attempting to mend a strained relationship with the Kremlin. However, there are deep differences between Merkel and Putin on a number of topics.

Merkel told her counterpart that all sides must work towards a ceasefire in Ukraine, which would lead the EU to lift its sanctions on Russia.

Prior to the meeting, Gernot Erler, the German government's representative in charge of relations with Russia, said that "Moscow has known that for some time, so the ability to add pressure is very limited."

Germany seems willing to strengthen relations with Russia at a time when there's a new administration in the White House. U.S. President Donald Trump is to speak by phone with Russia's president later this Tuesday.

Stefan Meister, from the German Council on Foreign Relations, told the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle that "Angela Merkel is not the only one traveling to Russia. The foreign minister has talks there and the president is planning talks."

Russia's election interference are rumors

President Putin denied once again allegations that his country has interfered with other countries' elections. He said that such allegations are only rumors, Reuters reported.

Russia has been criticized for getting involved in the U.S. and French elections. Germany is heading to the polls after the summer.

Erler, from the German government, told Deutsche Welle that "it is not acceptable to interfere in another country's affairs this way - using illegal methods such as wiretapping or hacking."

"I think Russian leaders are aware of what this means for German-Russian relations, in the case that they really have made such attempts or support them," he said.

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