Foreign Minister Frank‑Walter Steinmeier visited the Russian city of Yekaterinburg on Monday (15 August). Whilst there, he met his Russian counterpart Sergey V. Lavrov. In addition to discussing relations between their two countries, the ministers focused above all on the civil war in Syria and the latest escalation in Crimea. Steinmeier gave a keynote speech on the relationship between Germany and Russia to an audience of students.
Promoting dialogue with the younger generation
The Minister’s visit to Yekaterinburg started with talks with the Governor of Sverdlovsk Oblast. Steinmeier’s next appointment was at the Boris Yeltsin University, which has set up a summer school with the Technische Universität Berlin to facilitate exchange between young people from the two countries. Foreign Minister Steinmeier addressed German and Russian students, reflecting on the relationship between the two countries and calling for intense exchange at all social levels. He called for a “two‑track dialogue” – on what binds us and divides us. Together with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, who had come especially from Moscow for the event, he took the opportunity to discuss ideas and exchange views with the students.
Sobering reports on the Minsk Agreement
Afterwards Steinmeier and Lavrov held talks to discuss the world’s troublespots and joint paths of action. Their focus was on the situation in Syria and in Ukraine.
Coming out of these talks, Steinmeier had the following to say with regard to Ukraine, where violence has flared up again in the east of the country and the situation in Crimea has recently escalated: “When we compare the commitments made under the Minsk Agreement with the progress that has been achieved, the results are still very sobering.” This was true “both for the security situation and for the entire political package.” Negotiations on a framework agreement aimed at easing the tensions between the parties to the conflict in eastern Ukraine have been at a standstill for weeks. Steinmeier called the escalation in Crimea “unsettling”, and said that it was still not clear what exactly had happened. He is waiting for clarification from the Ukrainians and the Russians. He stressed that de‑escalation and restraint were what was needed now.
Urgent need for humanitarian access to Aleppo
With regard to the situation in Syria, Steinmeier said that the liberation of Manbij from the IS terrorist forces was good news. It was a “glimmer of hope” for the people. But while the liberation of Manbij was something to celebrate, the humanitarian situation in Aleppo remained catastrophic. Steinmeier thus stated, “We need a humanitarian ceasefire, we need access corridors so that essential supplies can get through to the people.” Humanitarian access routes by land, supervised by the UN, were the priority. Airdrops could only ever be second‑best. Steinmeier further noted that Russia had a special responsibility with respect to finding a solution.
Meeting civil society representatives
Steinmeier’s schedule concluded with a discussion event organised by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation on prognoses for the development of German‑Russian relations until 2030, at which he met with civil society representatives.