Putin Warns Merkel That Europe Can't Afford a New Syria Refugee Crisis

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he plans to discuss “humanitarian aid” for Syria to help refugees return home, warning German Chancellor Angela Merkel that a renewed migrant crisis would be a disruptive burden.

Merkel, hosting Putin for their first bilateral talks in Germany since 2013, opened by telling him that Russia has an elevated responsibility to step up and help solve a range of conflicts, notably Syria and Ukraine.

“I remind you that there are a million refugees in Jordan and a million in Lebanon,” Putin told reporters alongside Merkel on Saturday before they met privately at a German government chateau north of Berlin. “There are 3 million refugees in Turkey. This is potentially a huge burden on Europe, so it is better to do everything possible so that they can return home.”

Syria is a key topic in the talks, with Merkel saying the immediate goal must be to avoid a humanitarian disaster in the northern province of Idlib. Ahead of Putin’s visit, Merkel’s spokesman said the conditions for a return of refugees are nowhere near at hand.

On Ukraine, Merkel said the two leaders would discuss the possibility of a United Nations peace mission for eastern Ukraine. Putin is expected to return to Moscow Saturday evening.

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