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Culture news, 11.10.2006 16:30

Putin, Merkel visit St Petersburg Dialogue public forum

putin_visit Russian President Vladimir Putin, now on a working visit in Germany, and German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel became guests of honor at the St Petersburg Dialogue public forum that annually brings together the most influential politicians, public activists, experts and business people from both countries.

Putin and Merkel got greetings from co-chairmen of the forum, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachov and former East-German Prime Minister Lothar de Maiziere.

St Petersburg Dialogue emerged in 2001 on the initiative of President Putin and the then German Federal Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, to bring civic societies in Russia and Germany closer together.

"Over the past five years, this forum has turned into a symbol of growing trust between the Russians and Germans and a symbol of mutual understanding, but it didn't become an elitist club behind closed doors," Vladimir Kotenev, the Russian ambassador to Germany said.

He emphasized the ever growing numbers of young people getting engaged in the forum's activity.

The current session of St Petersburg Dialogue will send out a strong signal, said Alexander Rahr, a leading executive at the German Society for Foreign Policy.

"An expansion of the circle of contacts and discussion of civic society problems in the presence of both countries' leaders shows that dialogue between Russia and Germany is a reality and we can't help welcoming this," Rahr said.

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