Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt for talks in Berlin on Wednesday. Steinmeier thereby extended a “very warm welcome to an old colleague and friend”. The international agenda of their discussions focused on a number of trouble spots, namely Iran, Syria and the Middle East.
Excellent bilateral relations
The two Foreign Ministers were unequivocal in agreeing that German-Swedish relations had taken up very little of today’s discussions, as they were already excellent both at the political and at the personal level.
The chief focus during today’s talks was therefore on international issues. At the start of their joint press conference, Foreign Minister Steinmeier made clear that, “with the state the world is in, we have to talk about the important conflict regions”. Both Ministers spoke extensively about the war in Syria and the international negotiations on the Iranian nuclear programme.
Syria: An appeal to the opposition
On Syria, Foreign Minister Steinmeier raised the sobering point that people were still being murdered and the situation was becoming increasingly complex, not least due to the infighting within the opposition. He called for care to be taken to improve conditions in refugee camps. He also pointed out the need to support Jordan and Lebanon, neighbouring countries which are under pressure from the high numbers of refugees.
Speaking about the planned Syria Conference, the German Foreign Minister expressed his hope that it would in fact take place but also sought to rein in expectations:
I hope it takes place – in a format that at least allows for the hope that progress will be made. That format must involve the participation of important sections of the opposition in the Syria Conference. We therefore call on the still hesitant sections of the opposition not to refuse to join the discussions, at least to take part, (...) because initial steps need to be taken now to perhaps make it possible to create small openings for humanitarian access and make minimal improvements in the humanitarian situation for the civilians suffering in Syria.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt principally spoke about the situation of Syrian refugees: We can be proud of the fact that Germany and Sweden are taking in large numbers of refugees.
Iran: Hopes of containing danger
Turning to the subject of Iran, Steinmeier spoke about the current negotiations on the Iranian nuclear programme. The most recent progress made, he said, allowed for the hope that the “danger which could break out in the Middle East any day” could be “contained to some extent” and that a conclusive solution could be found.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier ended with a few words on today’s decision by the Federal Government to propose to the German Bundestag that it extend Germany’s participation in the Patriot mission under NATO and in the NATO mission Operation Active Endeavour.