Merkel to host Putin for talks on Syria, Ukraine, energy

Merkel will host Putin at the government retreat Meseberg castle north of Berlin (AFP/Cristina Quicler)
Updated 13 August 2018
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Merkel to host Putin for talks on Syria, Ukraine, energy

  • Putin and Merkel last met in May in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi
  • Merkel stayed away from Russia during this year's football World Cup

BERLIN: Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday to discuss the Syrian and Ukraine conflicts, energy issues and other foreign policy issues, Berlin announced.
Merkel will host Putin from 1600 GMT at the government retreat Meseberg castle north of Berlin, where they will only give media statements but not hold a joint press conference, said her spokesman Steffen Seibert.
The low-key meeting will focus on “the Syrian conflict, which has gone on far too long, the situation in eastern Ukraine and energy issues,” said Seibert at a press conference Monday.
Relations have been tense between Russia and Western powers, including Germany, over a range of issues, from the Ukraine and Syria conflicts to charges of Russian cyber-attacks and election meddling in several NATO member countries.
Putin and Merkel last met in May in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, but the German leader stayed away from Russia during the football World Cup.
Merkel and her Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on July 24 held an unusual meeting in Berlin with Russia’s army chief of staff Valery Gerasimov and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, to discuss Syria and Ukraine.
French President Emmanuel Macron at the time also received Gerasimov, who is usually subject to an EU travel ban, and Lavrov.
Berlin has also hosted ministerial meetings on reviving the stalled Ukraine peace process and on resolving Russian-Ukrainian disputes on gas shipments as Moscow and Berlin plan a controversial new Baltic Sea pipeline project, Nordstream 2.


At least 161 dead in northeast Congo in apparent ethnic clashes

Updated 34 sec ago
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At least 161 dead in northeast Congo in apparent ethnic clashes

  • A series of attacks in Ituri province has mostly targeted Hema herders, who have long been in conflict with Lendu farmers over grazing rights and political representation
  • Open conflict between Hema and Lendu from 1999-2007 resulted in an estimated 50,000 deaths in one of the bloodiest chapters of a civil war in eastern Congo

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo: At least 161 people have been killed in a northeastern province of Democratic Republic of Congo in the past week, local officials said on Monday, in an apparent resurgence of ethnic clashes between farming and herding communities.
A series of attacks in Ituri province has mostly targeted Hema herders, who have long been in conflict with Lendu farmers over grazing rights and political representation, although the exact identity of the assailants remains murky.
Open conflict between Hema and Lendu from 1999-2007 resulted in an estimated 50,000 deaths in one of the bloodiest chapters of a civil war in eastern Congo that left millions dead from conflict, hunger and disease.
Tit-for-tat attacks between the two groups in late 2017 and early 2018 killed hundreds of people and forced tens of thousands more to flee their homes, but a tenuous calm had taken hold until this month.
Pascal Kakoraki Baguma, a national lawmaker from Ituri, said the latest violence was sparked by the killing last Monday of four Lendu businesspeople.
“Members of the Lendu community believed that these assassinations were the work of the Hema,” Kakoraki said. “This is why they launched several attacks on Hema villages.”
“Sources affirm that 161 bodies have been found so far. But the death toll goes beyond the bodies recovered, as there were other massacres of civilians and police officers,” he said.
Jean Bosco Lalo, president of civil society organizations in Ituri, said 200 bodies had been found since last week in predominantly Hema villages, including the 161 mentioned by Kakoraki. Lalo said the toll would rise once his teams gained access to other villages where killings had been reported.
Ituri Governor Jean Bamanisa said provincial authorities were still working to establish the exact death toll and declined to say who was responsible.
He said the assailants’ tactics were to “empty out the villages, burn them and pursue those who had fled to the surrounding areas with bladed weapons.”
Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, who took office in January, is trying to restore stability to the country’s eastern borderlands, a tinderbox of conflict among armed groups over ethnicity, natural resources and political power.
Several rebel leaders have surrendered or been captured during his first months in office, but armed violence has persisted, particularly in North Kivu province, south of Ituri, which is the epicenter of a 10-month Ebola outbreak.