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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - MOSCOW - German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on Saturday for talks set to focus on flashpoints in the Middle East. Merkel and Putin shook hands at the start of the meeting which the German leader said would cover topics including turmoil in Libya and the Syria conflict as well as Ukraine's war with pro-Russian separatists. "There is a lot to discuss," said Merkel, adding that "talking with one another is always better than talking about one another." Putin thanked the chancellor for visiting and said they would focus on "the hottest" topics. The leaders were set to give a press conference afterwards. Germany and Russia said ahead of the talks that they would cover the confrontation between Washington and Tehran over the US killing of a top Iranian general and turmoil in Libya. The visit by Merkel was her first to Russia since May 2018 when the leaders met at Putin's Black Sea residence. Putin visited Syria and Turkey this week and is keen to stress his role as a regional powerbroker. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who accompanied Merkel, said a "key reason" for the meeting was the escalating crisis in Libya, where Berlin is acting as a mediator in a conflict he has warned could become a "second Syria". "We are involving Europe and those players who are influential there, for that we need Russia," Maas told Germany's NTV television. "For us, it's not too far to fly to Moscow to discuss that with Putin." Merkel is to invite Putin to a Berlin conference on Libya later this month, diplomatic sources told AFP. Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a ceasefire in Libya on Wednesday, although they are seen as supporting opposing sides in the conflict. The Kremlin has said the talks will also cover the "escalation of tensions" in the Middle East after the US killed top Iranian commander General Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike close to Baghdad. Putin warned the killing could "seriously aggravate the situation in the region". -AFP
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