Crisis diplomacy at a time of dramatic changes
Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle began his 5 day trip to the Middle East by visiting Qatar and the United Arab Emirates on the Persian Gulf from 5 to 6 June. His talks focused on the continuing violence in Syria.
Westerwelle with the Prime Minister
In Doha, Westerwelle said that in his talks with his partners in the region he wanted to explore ways of putting more weight behind Kofi Annan’s peace plan. Pressure must be maintained on the Assad regime and a military escalation must be avoided, because that could unleash a “wildfire” in the entire region, he went on.
Qatar’s important role
In the capital of Qatar, Westerwelle emphasized the significance of the Emirate’s role in efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria. “Qatar is not only a great economic power,” said the Foreign Minister. “Qatar is rather increasingly a centre of international power, where one can see that political influence is being derived from economic power, and within the Arab League, Qatar clearly plays a crucial role,” said Westerwelle on the fringes of his talks with the Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and the Prime Minister, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al Thani, who is also the country’s Foreign Minister.
Because of its dedicated efforts in the field of foreign policy, Qatar is an important partner for Germany in other foreign-policy questions, such as the Middle East conflict. Another topic of his talks was Iran’s nuclear programme. Westerwelle emphasized that Germany was also interested in closer economic cooperation, saying that there was great potential above all in the fields of energy and health. Both sides want to expand bilateral relations and signed an agreement on intensifying bilateral political consultations.
A visit to the Al Jazeera news channel
Foreign Minister Westerwelle also took advantage of his trip to Doha to visit the Arab news channel Al Jazeera. In an interview with the station he made the following comment on the situation in Syria:
“The international community must put its weight behind Kofi Annan’s peace plan. We must further increase the pressure on the Assad regime, also in New York in the Security Council. Together, we should consider doing so through a sanctions resolution by the Security Council under chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations.” He explained: “That is expressly not a military intervention, but rather the imposition of measures and sanctions by the Security Council, with which violations of Kofi Annan’s plan can be met with globally applicable sanctions.”
With around 40 million viewers daily, Al Jazeera (“the island” in Arabic) is one of the most important television stations of the region. Since 2006 there has also been an English language channel, which reaches around 190 million people. The channel was founded in 1996 by the Emir of Qatar.
United Arab Emirates: relations based on trust
Westerwelle trifft den emiratischen Außenminister
© Th. Koehler, photothek / Auswärtiges Amt
On the second stop of his trip – the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – Syria was also a top issue. In Abu Dhabi Westerwelle held talks with his UAE counterpart, Sheikh Abdallah bin Zayed Al Nahyan. There, too, Westerwelle emphasized the two main goals of Germany’s foreign policy: ending the violence in Syria and preventing a wildfire in the region.
Westerwelle and the UAE Foreign Minister also attended a reception celebrating 40 years of diplomatic relations between Germany and the United Arab Emirates. Westerwelle stressed the close political and economic partnership. Since 2004, the countries have had a “strategic partnership”. For Germany, the UAE represent the most important economic partner in the Arab world, with mutual investments worth billions of euros. In particular, Westerwelle advocated an intensive exchange between the young people of both countries.
On 6 June, Westerwelle visited the Federal National Council in Abu Dhabi, where he talked with several men and women from the 40 member group. The “Federal National Council”, in which the individual emirates are represented proportionally based on population, has an advisory function. The discussions dealt with a large spectrum of issues, among them the role of parliamentarians in both societies.
In Abu Dhabi, Minister Westerwelle also visited the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) on 6 June. In a speech, he explained the transformation of Germany’s energy system and emphasized the importance of renewable energies. He also promoted the idea of locating the new “Green Climate Fund” in Bonn. The Fund was initiated in December 2011 during the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban and is to finance projects in developing countries that must adapt to climate change.
Other stops on the journey: Istanbul and Beirut
After leaving Abu Dhabi, Westerwelle travelled on to Istanbul, where he attended the Global Counterterrorism Forum. For the fourth and final leg of his journey, on 7 and 8 June, the German Foreign Minister will be in Lebanon, which is increasingly affected by the crisis in Syria.
Last updated 07.06.2012