MOSCOW (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel is under pressure to raise concerns about human rights in Russia when she meets with President Vladimir Putin on Friday.
Germany's parliament passed a resolution last week that linked Russia's rollback on democratic freedoms to Putin's return to the presidency in May and urged the German government to take a tougher stance in dealing with Russia.
Germany's foreign minister, however, said Merkel would take a balanced approach in her meeting with Putin.
"On the one hand, we don't want to hold back on criticism regarding Russia's internal development, but on the other hand we are very keen for the strategic partnership with Russia to be expanded," Guido Westerwelle told Deutschlandfunk radio on Friday.
Germany and Russia are major trading partners, and German companies are involved in a number of lucrative joint energy projects.
Westerwelle said Germany also has foreign policy interests that involve Russia. Despite differences over the civil war in Syria, he stressed that there were areas in which the two countries work closely together, such as in efforts to address concerns over Iran's nuclear program.
"If we do not maintain a balance, we will achieve absolutely nothing, because then a dialogue would no longer be possible, because Russia would effectively put up the shutters," Westerwelle said.
The German resolution angered Moscow. Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that if issues related to democracy and human rights are raised during the talks, Putin will offer a "thorough explanation and ask his questions in turn."
The resolution was written by Andreas Schockenhoff, a member of Merkel's party and her point man on contacts between Russian and German civil societies.