EU leaders split about potential meeting between bloc and Putin

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures as she speaks with France's President Emmanuel Macron, Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven during the first face-to-face EU summit since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brussels, Belgium July 18, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/Pool
German Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures as she speaks with France's President Emmanuel Macron, Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven during the first face-to-face EU summit since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brussels, Belgium July 18, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/Pool

EU premiers are split on whether to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, a proposal Germany and France brought in prior to a summit in Brussels.

Heading into talks with her 26 counterparts, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the European Union should find ways to enter into direct dialogue with Russia, arguing that “conflicts can best be solved … if you also talk to each other.”

Other countries, however, are sceptical of the approach and urged caution.

“We don’t see any radical change in the pattern of behaviour of Russia,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said. “If without any positive changes in the behaviour of Russia, we will start to engage, it will send very uncertain and bad signals to our partners, for example Eastern partnership countries.”

“It seems to me like we try to engage the bear to keep a part of honey safe,” he added.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that while he was not in principle against directly engaging with Russia, he would not attend such a meeting.

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