On Wednesday (25 May), Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed his Saudi counterpart Adel Al-Jubeir to the Federal Foreign Office. The talks focused on the conflicts in the Middle East, especially those in Syria, Yemen and Libya. On the margins of the talks, Steinmeier expressed his relief over the release of the Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, who has been allowed to return to Ukraine after being let out of a Russian prison.
Syria: Finding the “road back to Geneva”
The talks between the two Foreign Ministers focused on the ongoing crises and conflicts in the Middle East, especially those in Syria, Yemen and Libya. In the case of Syria, persistent efforts had to be made to ensure that a political solution to the conflict remained possible. Although the humanitarian situation had partially improved, the agreed ceasefire was still fragile. Even after the meeting of the Syria Contact Group in Vienna last week, the attacks around Aleppo and Damascus had continued. Steinmeier hopes that Saudi Arabia can persuade the Syrian opposition that there is no alternative to a political solution so that the road back to Geneva and to political negotiations will be open again.
Yemen and Libya: Continuing talks and stabilising the government
In addition to Syria, the Foreign Ministers discussed the situation in Yemen. The military situation there had calmed down and the provision of humanitarian supplies had improved since the start of negotiations in mid-April between the government and opposition – not least thanks to Saudi Arabia’s readiness to participate in the talks. It was hoped that the current negotiations in Kuwait would bring about a political solution, the Minister said.
In Libya, by contrast, the recent negotiations in Vienna had shown that a political solution was still a long way off. The conflict between the governments in Tripoli and Tobruk continued. Steinmeier stressed that the next efforts would therefore have to focus on stabilising the government of national unity in Tripoli. Here, too, Saudi Arabia was actively involved in this process.
Relief over the release of Nadiya Savchenko from a Russian prison
On the margins of the talks, Steinmeier said he was “glad and relieved” about the release of the Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko: “This is good news which we have long worked to bring about and for which we nevertheless had to wait a long time.” Steinmeier expressed his hope that the release would build trust between Ukraine and Russia, thus providing the Minsk process with positive momentum. Although a ceasefire was agreed as part of the Minsk peace agreement last September, the tensions in eastern Ukraine continue.