Germany's Gabriel to meet Putin soon: source
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German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel attends a cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany August 31, 2016. REUTERS/Stefanie Loos
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By Gernot Heller
BERLIN (Reuters) - German Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel will travel to Russia soon to meet President Vladimir Putin on a visit that is likely to focus on business relations between the two powers, an economy ministry source told Reuters on Friday.
Gabriel will be accompanied to the meeting with Putin by a delegation of German business leaders. The agenda of the meeting will be current issues, especially German-Russian business relations, the source said.
No date for the trip was immediately available.
Gabriel is the leader of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), whose last chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, is still a close ally of Putin.
The trip could highlight divisions within the ruling right-left coalition over policy toward Russia as the two coalition partners begin squaring off ahead of next year's parliamentary elections.
Gabriel's SPD backs a more conciliatory stance toward Moscow than Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats.
In March, Gabriel called for the European Union to try to create conditions by the summer to lift the sanctions imposed against Russia two years ago for its annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
German industry leaders have also called for relaxing sanctions.
Merkel herself has repeatedly said that the sanctions can be lifted on Russia only once the Minsk peace agreement to end the conflict in Ukraine has been fully implemented.
(Reporting by Gernot Heller; writing by Erik Kirschbaum; editing by Andrea Shalal and Richard Balmforth)
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