BERLIN: The leader of Germany's pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), a possible partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel's next government, has called for Russia to be invited to the next summit of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialised countries.
Russia used to be part of the Group of Eight (G8) meetings until it was suspended in 2014 after it annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula following an uprising in Kiev that toppled its pro-Moscow president.
Merkel is trying to form a three-way coalition with the FDP and the Greens after her conservatives lost support in a federal election last month. To secure an agreement, the allies must overcome differences on a range of issues.
"We cannot make all things dependent on the situation in Crimea," FDP leader Christian Lindner said in an interview with Austrian newspaper Die Presse.
Russia's violation of international law could not be accepted, he said.
"But this is the most severe conflict and that's the last place we'll see progress," Lindner said. "That's why I'm in favour of intensifying dialogue - and that Putin is asked to join the table of the G7 and that one talks with him and not about him."
Lindner raised eyebrows in August when he suggested that Germany might have to accept Russia's 2014 annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine as a "permanent provisional arrangement".
Merkel and Greens politicians have rejected calls to gradually lift sanctions against Russia imposed over its role in the Ukraine crisis. The centre-right chancellor has also objected to the idea of inviting Putin to G7 meetings.
Turning to euro zone policies, Lindner repeated his criticism of French President Emmanuel Macron's proposals to create a joint euro zone budget.
"A red line for us in any coalition talks is the mutualization of debt in Europe, the creation of new pots of money," Lindner said.
(Reporting by Michael Nienaber, Editing by Angus MacSwan)