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Putin, Merkel to Discuss Conflicts In Ukraine, Syria At Berlin Meeting

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Sochi.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet on August 18 for talks about the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, as well as the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project that has drawn U.S. opposition.

Putin arrives in Germany after a stop at an Austrian vineyard to attend Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl's wedding to entrepreneur Wolfgang Meilinger.

Merkel warned on August 17 against expecting too much from her discussions with Putin at the government's Meseberg palace.

"We want good relations with Russia," she told reporters in Berlin. "It's a work meeting from which no specific results are expected, but the number of problems we are preoccupied with -- from Ukraine and Syria to the issue of economic cooperation -- is so big that it is justified to be in a permanent dialogue."

"Russia has huge influence on all these issues, and if we want peaceful solutions, we have to try to achieve them through discussions over and over again," she said.

"There will be controversies, and there will be issues where together we will see where we can enhance and improve bilateral and international cooperation," she said.

The two leaders last met in Sochi in May and struggled to overcome differences.

Russia and the West remain locked in dispute over Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula in 2014 and the conflict between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

On Syria, Germany wants Putin to finalize a lasting cease-fire there in agreement with the United States. Merkel said a four-way meeting on Syria involving Germany, Russia, Turkey, and France is possible.

Germany is also under strong pressure from the United States to halt work on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that is slated to carry gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea.

The United States claims it will increase Germany's dependence on Russia for energy. Ukraine fears the pipeline will allow Russia to cut it off from the gas transit business. Germany's eastern European neighbors, nervous of Russian encroachment, have also raised concerns about the project.

But Merkel has maintained that the Nord Stream project is an economic, not political matter for Germany. She is also under pressure from German businesses to maintain ties with Russia on that and other important economic projects.

While Merkel was cautious about the likelihood of making progress on longstanding disputes, others in her new governing coalition seemed more hopeful.

"We can be cautiously optimistic," Juergen Hardt, foreign policy spokesman for Merkel's conservative bloc, told the Stuttgarter Zeitung and Stuttgarter Nachrichten newspapers in an interview published on August 18.

"The Russian president has maneuvered himself into a dead end on Syria and eastern Ukraine, and needs international partners. For that he has to move," he said.

Achim Post, a senior member of the Social Democrats, junior partners in the coalition government, said that he expects both Merkel and Putin to look for pragmatic solutions based on common interests.

"In a world that is increasingly uncertain, we must speak particularly with difficult partners like Russia," he said.

Merkel and Putin will each make statements before the start of the talks. They do not plan to take questions.

With reporting by Reuters