The Foreign Ministers of Germany, France and the UK – Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Jean-Marc Ayrault and Philip Hammond – and EU High Representative Federica Mogherini have called for full observance of the ceasefire in Syria.
At their meeting in Paris on Friday (4 March), they stressed that there were signs of progress, but called for full respect for the ceasefire. French Foreign Minister Ayrault, who had issued the invitation to the meeting in the French Foreign Ministry on the Quai d’Orsay, said: “There is real progress, but some situations are still unacceptable.”
The priority now, he went on, must be to stabilise the ceasefire. Following the meeting, Foreign Minister Steinmeier reaffirmed that the resumption of the Geneva talks was an important step to this end. While ensuring access to humanitarian assistance for the people in Syria, we must not forget the political process. Progress on the political process, Steinmeier said, would be the best possible way to ensure that the weapons fall silent for good.
Stabilise the ceasefire but don’t forget the political process
Foreign Minister Steinmeier phrased it very cautiously: “At this juncture nothing has been definitively won.” There had been a stable ceasefire in Syria “for five, six days now. But we all know that the ceasefire is still being violated,” said Steinmeier. No “satisfactory situation” had been reached in terms of access for humanitarian aid either.
British Foreign Secretary Hammond said the ceasefire was “by no means perfect”, but that it had created an opportunity to reduce the degree of violence. This gave the humanitarian aid organisations a chance to provide basic relief for the people in the besieged areas in Syria. Hammond added that, at the meeting, the coordinator of the Syrian opposition, Riad Hijab, had been urged to get ready to return to the negotiating table in Geneva despite his reservations.
At the same time, the participants in the meeting warned that, if these conditions – a complete ceasefire and humanitarian access – were not met, then the planned peace talks between Syria’s Government and opposition were doomed to failure.
During her visit to Paris, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel joined with French President François Hollande to call on Russia to intensify its commitment to maintaining the ceasefire. Speaking to the press on Friday, Merkel said the message put across in a phone call to President Vladimir Putin was that Moscow had to exert its influence. This refers to Russia’s support for the Syrian regime under Bashar Al‑Assad.