Vladimir Putin dances at Austria wedding before meeting Angela Merkel


"We need to strengthen the humanitarian effort in the Syrian conflict", he said ahead of a meeting with his German counterpart Angela Merkel at the government retreat of Meseberg castle 70km (45 miles) north of Berlin.

Putin later met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Mesberg, near Berlin.

Putin stressing the priority should be helping Syrian refugees return to the country.

There are now one million refugees in Jordan, the same number in Lebanon, and three million in Turkey, Putin said.

She said she and Putin had already discussed the issue of constitutional reforms and possible elections when they last met in Sochi in May.

The pipeline was a key topic in the two leaders' bilateral talks, which also included other controversial issues such as stability in Ukraine and Syria and the future of the Iran nuclear deal.

Trump has criticized Nord Stream 2 and the gas supplies, saying German is "totally controlled" by Russian Federation by being dependent on the energy.

In July, Putin assured that Russia was willing to keep Russian flowing through Ukraine after the pipeline was commissioned, but without going into details on volumes or tariffs.

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"Ukraine must, in my opinion, play a role in the transit of gas to Europe", even after the start of Nord Stream 2 in 2019, the German chancellor said.

While Merkel was cautious about the likelihood of making progress on longstanding disputes, others in her new governing coalition seemed more hopeful.

"We have a responsibility - Germany, but mainly Russian Federation as a permanent member of the Security Council", Merkel said. "It's a work meeting from which no specific results are expected, but the number of problems we are preoccupied with - from Ukraine and Syria to the issue of economic cooperation - is so big that it is justified to be in a permanent dialogue".

In Syria, Putin has used his military to tip the civil war in President Bashar al-Assad's favour and Russia's joined with Turkey and Iran in trying to engineer a settlement.

SPOe MEP Evelyn Regner said the invite sent a "shameful" image of Austria to its EU partners, branding it "a provocation of European proportions".

The foreign ministry has insisted that Putin's visit "will not change anything in terms of Austria's foreign policy positions".

Trump last month slammed Germany as "totally controlled by Russia" because of its dependence on Moscow for natural gas supplies. The two leaders discussed Syria, Ukraine and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Earlier on Saturday, Putin attended the wedding of Austria's Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl in the small town of Gamlitz. Kneissl is an appointee of the far-right Freedom Party, which has long-standing ties with Russian Federation. Mr. Putin presented the bride with flowers and presents and went on to dance with her at the event in southern Austria near the border with Slovenia. "It was a private visit".