Foreign Minister Maas met his Russian opposite number, Sergey Lavrov, in Berlin on Friday (14 September). Maas urged Lavrov to prevent the looming offensive against the Syrian region of Idlib. Ahead of the meeting, Maas stated that the priority was to prevent the worst-case scenario, namely a humanitarian disaster.
Russia can stop Assad
Around three million people are trapped in Idlib. It is feared that there will be thousands of civilian victims if the Assad regime attacks the region. Russia has been protecting the Assad regime and has considerable influence vis-à-vis its military offensives. “I trust that Russia will now make use of its clout”, said Maas. That applies in particular to the possible use of chemical weapons by Assad’s troops.
Reconstruction assistance only if certain conditions are met
The Foreign Minister rejected Russia’s demands that Germany contribute unconditionally to Syria’s reconstruction. He stated that Germany’s support was coupled with clear conditions. “If a political settlement comes about which ultimately leads to free elections, we will be prepared to share the responsibility for reconstruction”, commented Maas. Germany is doing everything it can to support the negotiations being conducted under the aegis of the United Nations.
Refugees need security
The return of Syrian refugees will only be a realistic possibility once a marked change in conditions in the country has come about. As long as refugees are at risk of detention, torture or expropriation there, any offers concerning their return will remain meaningless.