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Conflict in Syria: Steinmeier calls for a return to the negotiating table Syrian Arab Republic

20.07.2016 - Article

Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier met European colleagues, US Secretary of State Kerry and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Mogherini in London yesterday (19 July).

Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier met European colleagues, US Secretary of State John Kerry and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini in London yesterday (19 July).

The people in Syria have now been suffering for more than five years from the impact of a terrible civil war. The ceasefire announced in March is fragile. And the siege around Aleppo is becoming tighter and tighter. More than 300,000 people are entrapped there alone.

Regime and opposition must re‑engage in negotiations

Foreign Minister Steinmeier on his way to the Syria conference in London
Foreign Minister Steinmeier on his way to the Syria conference in London© Thomas Imo/photothek.net

In London, the Foreign Ministers agreed that the conflict parties need to return to the negotiating table ‑ urgently. “Ultimately, there will be no solution if we do not set in motion a process that brings parts of the Syrian opposition back to the country and allows them to assume a share of the responsibilities of government,” Steinmeier said. The four European Foreign Ministers therefore met their US colleague and the EU Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to jointly elaborate a new strategy. The goal is for the regime and the opposition parties in Syria to recommence serious negotiations. The military conflict must be transformed into a political process.

Given the many different conflict parties and divergent interests in the Syria conflict, this will only be possible with close coordination within the international community. To this end Steinmeier will meet UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura in Berlin on Friday. Together they intend to discuss how the Geneva peace talks can be re‑activated.

Millions of people cut off from assistance

Foreign Minister Steinmeier with his Foreign Minister colleagues in London
Foreign Minister Steinmeier with his Foreign Minister colleagues in London© Thomas Imo/photothek.net

The Foreign Ministers also discussed how the supply situation could be improved for the people in Syria. Germany, as one of the largest donors, has already made available more than 2 billion euros for humanitarian assistance in Syria. The ceasefire was an important step for the delivery of supplies. “In the last few weeks we have managed to gain access to almost all besieged cities and communities. But we are aware that the situation could become much more difficult again for people over the coming days,” Steinmeier said. In spite of all efforts and the airlift established by the World Food Programme, a humanitarian disaster is still looming in Syria. Almost six million people in Syria are in urgent need of assistance but are living in areas that are barely accessible due to the fighting.

The overriding issue for the week is the crisis in the Middle East. The many different facets of the conflict each require a separate negotiation session and format. After the London meeting, Steinmeier travelled to Washington to take part in the international donor conference for Iraq. The Counter-ISIL Coalition meeting is due to take place the following day.

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