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Germany warns of diplomatic row

By AFP - Feb 07,2021 - Last updated at Feb 07,2021

Josep Borrell, after talks with his Russian foreign policy counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Friday, said he was ‘really upset’ by the expulsion plans (AFP photo)

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday condemned as "unjustified" Russia's expulsion of European diplomats for participating in unauthorised demonstrations in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

"We consider these expulsions to be unjustified. We believe it is yet another aspect that can be observed right now of Russia being quite far from the rule of law," she said at an online press conference with France's President Emmanuel Macron.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said earlier that the decision by Moscow to declare the diplomats from Poland, Germany and Sweden persona non grata would "not go unanswered".

Maas added that the German diplomat concerned was "solely fulfilling his duty... of informing himself about developments on the ground by lawful means".

France's Macron also took Germany's stance, saying he was "completely in line and in solidarity" with his EU counterpart on the issue. He similarly condemned "most firmly" Russia's decision to expel the European diplomats.

Despite Moscow's latest move, Merkel said Berlin's stance on the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline with Russia remained "unaffected".

Nord Stream 2 is a 10 billion-euro ($11 billion) pipeline that will run beneath the Baltic Sea and is set to double Russian natural-gas shipments to Germany, Europe’s largest economy.

The United States and several European countries such as Poland have criticised the project, saying it will increase German and EU dependence on Russia for critical gas supplies.

Merkel acknowledged that the pipeline was a “controversial project”, but “solutions can be found together” on the issue.

The German leader also stressed that it was important to keep a channel open for discussions with Russia, given that it was a key player on many geopolitical issues.

“Despite deep-reaching differences, it is nevertheless strategically advisable to stay in talks with Russia,” said the German leader, noting that cooperation was required on many issues including Libya, Syria and Belarus.





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