German official: Syria crisis won't change Berlin's position on Russia

BERLIN - Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff has rejected a suggestion by her economy minister that Germany should support a lifting of sanctions against Russia in order to win Moscow's cooperation to help end the civil war in Syria.
Chief of staff Peter Altmaier acknowledged that Russia, which is subject to US and European Union sanctions because of its annexation of Crimea and backing for Ukrainian separatist rebels, has an important role to play in Syria.
"But this doesn't mean that we will change our stance on the Ukraine crisis. We won't let ourselves be blackmailed," Altmaier told Der Tagesspiegel newspaper in an interview published on Sunday.
Russia has been carrying out a military buildup in Syria to support President Bashar Assad, its longstanding ally.
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