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The key to peace is to be found in the region

Interview with Federal Minister Guido Westerwelle by the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram. Published on 12thNovember 2012

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Under your Presidency, the UN Security Council in September welcomed the active leading role played by the Arab League in the region and agreed on close cooperation between the two organizations to overcome the conflicts in the Middle East. What results has this new cooperation brought to date?

We are in close contact with the Arab League on all current issues, first and foremost on resolving the Syria conflict. In recent months, the Arab League has repeatedly shown that it can shoulder more responsibility for resolving the conflicts in the region. The Arab League has major potential as a peace-maker and conflict-mediator. Europe and the Arab League can cooperate closely here.

What topics are to the fore at the EU-Arab League meeting in Cairo? Do you expect the meeting to yield concrete decisions on the Syria conflict and on the relaunch of the Middle East peace process?

The war in Syria is each and every day inflicting untold suffering on the people. We have to do all we can to find a solution to the conflict and put an end to the bloodshed. We will talk intensively with our Arab partners about this. The standstill in the Middle East peace process will be a further focus. The primary goal now must be to create a climate that opens the way for the relaunch of direct peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

Given the fragmented nature of the Syrian opposition, you are calling for a united political platform of all Syrians to pave the way for a political process. Is there agreement between Syria’s Western and Arab friends on how this united opposition should shape up?

We would like to see an inclusive platform of representatives covering the whole spectrum of the Syrian people to pave Syria’s way to a democratic future in which all the country’s religious and ethnic groups can live in peace. Only when the opposition stands and acts together will the Syrian people realize there is a plausible alternative to the regime of Bashar Al-Assad.

What chance does the Egyptian initiative have to set up a regional contact group which would include Iran to solve the conflict in Syria?

The key to peace is to be found in the region. I am pleased that Egypt wants to play an active role in the efforts to find a solution.

 You have just been in West Africa for four days and had extensive talks in Nigeria, Senegal and Mali. Germany advocates decisive action against extremist groups in northern Mali. There is even talk of military support with Germany on board. Is Germany only concerned about Mali’s stability or are there other interests at stake?

Our goal is to use a political process to achieve long-term stabilization all across Mali. This also has to take up and resolve the justified concerns of the people in the north of the country. This political stabilization has to be flanked by a process to strengthen Malian security forces and with regional African efforts to get the situation under control. One thing is absolutely clear. The solution in Mali needs an African face. Nevertheless, the European Union is ready to support the Malian armed forces with a training mission. After my talks in Mali just a few days ago, I do believe Mali can manage to overcome this grave crisis. Germany was the first country to grant Mali diplomatic recognition after it proclaimed its independence. We have been working together on development policy for many years, also in the north. We want to prevent Mali becoming a safe haven for terrorists.

In the Berlin Declaration of August 2011, Germany reaffirmed its support for Egypt. Are you happy with how German support has been implemented thus far, particularly concerning the economic and social stabilization of Egypt? Are there any results from the agreed strategic dialogue between the two countries?

We want to help ensure that the new freedom for the people in Egypt bears fruit. Our transformation partnership with Egypt and the other countries of the Arab Spring thus also focuses on building economic opportunities, improving vocational education and creating jobs for the young generation. We are making available 100 million euros to this end in 2012 and 2013. The projects are up and running and are showing the first signs of success. Through an employment project supported by Germany, more than 8000 people in Egypt have, for example, found a new job.

President Morsi has reaffirmed Egypt’s claim to a leading role in the region. Do you expect Egypt soon to be in a position to take on this role?

Throughout its history, Egypt has in impressive fashion shown that it can provide important momentum for progress, peace and stability in the region. I am confident that the new Egypt can tap this tradition.

Interview of Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle with 'Al-Ahram' in Arabic (PDF, 69 KB)

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