Germany Wants to Improve Ties with Russia, Foreign Minister Says

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has said he wants to resume dialogue and gradually improve ties with Russia, RFE/RL reported. His statement follows a wave of diplomatic expulsions over a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in England that Britain blames on Russia.

“There is no question of it — a lot of trust has been lost due to Russia’s actions in recent years. At the same time, we need Russia as a partner, for example, to help settle regional conflicts, for disarmament, and as an important pillar of the multilateral order,” Maas said in an interview published on Sunday in the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

“So we are open to dialogue for those reasons and hope to rebuild trust step by step if Russia is also willing to do so,” he added.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Maas have joined the United States and other European countries in standing with Britain in a major standoff over the attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

Maas, a member of the Social Democrats (SPD) who are split on how tough to be on Moscow, told the newspaper much trust had been lost in the last few years due to Russia’s behavior.

“At the same time, we need Russia as a partner to settle regional conflicts, for disarmament and as an important pillar of multilateralism,” he was quoted as saying in the paper.

“We are therefore open for dialogue and are trying to rebuild trust bit by bit if Russia is ready.”

He also, however, defended the decision to expel diplomats. “to show solidarity with Britain but also as a signal of unity”.

In the last week, as part of mass expulsions on both sides, Germany expelled four Russian diplomats and Moscow has reciprocated with the same number, prompting talk of a crisis in relations between Russia and the West.