First official visit to Berlin: Foreign Minister Steinmeier met his new Croatian counterpart Davor Stier on Wednesday (14 December). In addition to German‑Croatian relations, the Ministers’ talks focused on the future of the European Union. In the light of the dramatic situation in Syria, Steinmeier called on the Syrian regime and its supporters to ensure that the population in eastern Aleppo has access to humanitarian assistance.
First official visit to Berlin
Davor Stier has been Croatia’s Foreign Minister since mid‑October and I had met Foreign Minister Steinmeier on several occasions in Brussels. “I’m delighted that we were able to have a longer exchange today, the first opportunity we’ve had to speak with each other at length”, Steinmeier said after the talks with his opposite number. He went on to say that Germany and Croatia were linked by a dense network of amicable relations. More than 200,000 Croats live and work in Germany, while many Germans spend their holidays on Croatia’s beaches.
Europe’s future: reorganisation and Europe’s neighbourhood
The two Ministers talked at length about Europe, in particular the renewal of the EU following the Brexit decision in the UK. “We very much hope that we can reorganise Europe by the anniversary of the Treaties of Rome in a way that once more encourages people to see a future with and in Europe”, stressed Steinmeier.
Just like on Monday at the EU Foreign Affairs Council, the situation in Europe’s neighbourhood, especially in the Western Balkans, was discussed. Following the elections in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which went off peacefully, it was now important that a government was formed as quickly as possible and stability restored.
Steinmeier said it was also important that Serbia continued to move closer to the EU. He added that Germany was therefore in favour of opening three new chapters in the accession process and hoped that this would advance soon. States which fulfilled the obligations with respect to the accession negotiations had to see that their efforts were worthwhile. What was more, it was important to maintain the credibility of the enlargement process in the Western Balkan countries.
Syria: Telephone conversations with the Russian and Iranian Foreign Ministers as well as Staffan de Mistura
The ever more critical situation in Syria was also discussed during the talks. Steinmeier stated that the Syrian tragedy was heading towards a tragic climax. Contrary to some announcements, people were continuing to die and armed hostilities had broken out again.
Steinmeier went on to say that during a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Lavrov he reminded him that those who had taken over large parts of Aleppo now had an urgent responsibility to provide the survivors with humanitarian assistance. Aid supplies were already available in the western part of the city. It was now crucial that international relief organisations were granted access to people in eastern Aleppo. This was the responsibility of the Syrian regime and its supporters. Steinmeier added that after his telephone call with Lavrov, he would talk in the afternoon to the Iranian Foreign Minister about the same issue.
Steinmeier stressed again that the military fall of Aleppo would not be the end of the war. Rather, the conflict would continue with a combination of military confrontation and terrorist attacks. He added that he also wanted to talk on the phone to UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura to look for a way back to the political negotiation process, which was absolutely essential.