Europe News

Merkel says EU united on Russia, but must keep talking to Moscow

FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a statement a the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) headquarters in Berlin, Germany, March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the European Union would present a common stance over the nerve agent attack in England that British Prime Minister Theresa May blamed on Russia on Wednesday.

Asked by German broadcaster ARD if she could mediate between Britain and Russia, Merkel replied: “This is not about mediating. We take the findings of the British government very seriously. I spoke by telephone with Theresa May yesterday. We will present a common European view here.”

However, a French government spokesman said it was too early for Paris to decide on a response and it would wait for “definitive conclusions” before adopting a position.

EU leaders are due to meet next week and Merkel said they would take a position then. NATO called on Russia on Wednesday to give Britain “complete disclosure” of the Soviet-era nerve agent used in an attack on a Russian double agent on March 4.

“Transparency is important from the Russian side,” Merkel said.

“If NATO has taken a position, then Germany has taken a position. We are a NATO member. Next week, the European Council (EU) meets and we can do similarly (to NATO).”

“Nonetheless, I say we can’t break off all contacts now. We must still talk responsibly with the Russians despite all differences of opinion,” she added.

May said Britain would expel 23 Russian diplomats, the biggest such expulsion since the Cold War.

Reporting by Paul Carrel; Editing by Madeline Chambers and Robin Pomeroy