Focus on Syria: Foreign Minister Gabriel at the EU Foreign Affairs Council

03.04.2017 - Article

The principal focus of the Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg was on Syria. Yemen was likewise on the agenda.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel met his European counterparts at the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg on Monday (3 April). Two days before the international conference on Syria held in Brussels, the situation in Syria was the focus of the talks. Gabriel also gave a statement on the latest developments in the Deniz Yücel case on the sidelines of the talks.

Syria: humanitarian assistance and political negotiations

Syria is once again the focus of international politics this week. A major international donors’ conference for the country and region is taking place in the Belgian capital on Wednesday, which is intended to mobilise fresh funding.

Foreign Minister Gabriel en route to Luxembourg
Foreign Minister Gabriel en route to Luxembourg© Grabowsky/photothek.net

Syria was also the overriding topic of discussion at the meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers on Monday. Two aspects played a particularly important role in this regard: getting humanitarian assistance to the people and pursuing political negotiations to resolve the conflict. These negotiations were resumed in Geneva at the end of March.

Creating stable conditions

“It goes without saying that we are supporting the UN process in Geneva”, said Gabriel prior to the talks. The conflict could only be resolved by political means, the Foreign Minister continued, which was why Germany remained committed to the negotiation process in spite of all of the difficulties. It was important here, he added, not to allow the fight against terrorism and so‑called Islamic State to overshadow the other aspects of the negotiations. “Negotiations in Geneva will also be about elections and a new constitution, as well as about a new and democratic government”, said Gabriel.

The EU Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg: Syria on the agenda
The EU Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg: Syria on the agenda© Grabowsky/photothek.net

Creating stable conditions for the population in Syria was just as important as the efforts to fight terrorism, said the Minister. Humanitarian assistance in the region would need to be further expanded to this end, he added. The first donors’ conference took place in London in 2016 and has helped to improve the living conditions of many thousands of people in the region. The objective in Brussels in two days’ time is to build on this success. Further humanitarian support must be secured for Syria and the region, especially Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, and also Iraq and Egypt.

With a view to humanitarian assistance, the Foreign Ministers condemned the ongoing violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Syria, particularly by the Syrian regime. In a common EU strategy, they advocated ending the conflict by facilitating a lasting political solution.

Yemen: improving humanitarian access

The situation in Yemen was also on the agenda in Luxembourg. A political solution to the conflict has yet to be found and the living conditions of the population are worsening. Some 17 million people are in need of outside assistance, while over two million children are suffering from malnutrition. The Foreign Ministers said that, in order to de‑escalate the crisis, the first priority was to improve humanitarian access to the population.

Turkey: access to Deniz Yücel from Tuesday

Foreign Minister Gabriel giving a statement to the press in Luxembourg
Foreign Minister Gabriel giving a statement to the press in Luxembourg© Grabowsky/photothek.net

On the fringes of the talks, Gabriel gave a statement on the latest developments in the case of German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel, who is being held on remand in Turkey. He had contacted his Turkish counterpart Çavuşoğlu once again last week to request that Germany be granted consular access to Yücel as promised, said Gabriel.

“This morning Turkey officially confirmed per Note Verbale that we will finally be granted access to Deniz Yücel tomorrow so that we can satisfy ourselves of his well‑being after a difficult time in custody.”

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