Foreign Minister Steinmeier today (22 July) had a meeting at the Federal Foreign Office with Staffan de Mistura, Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General for Syria.
Trying to find a way to end the civil war in Syria, Foreign Minister Steinmeier has once again been travelling this week: to Brussels on Monday, London on Tuesday, Washington on Wednesday and Thursday, and back to Berlin on Friday. He went from conference to conference, twice crossing the Atlantic, for the EU Foreign Affairs Council, US-European strategic discussions, Pledging Conference in Support of Iraq, Global Coalition to Counter ISIL meeting, and then the visit from Staffan de Mistura. Again and again there is a new round of negotiations, an exchange with countless actors, in an attempt to untangle the complicated web of differing interests.
Use the window of opportunity
Speaking on the fringes of their meeting in Berlin, Steinmeier and de Mistura made it clear that the current window of opportunity had to be used. Even though the ceasefire imposed in March is fragile, there have been important steps forward. “Things have changed in the past few months,” Steinmeier said. The international community had been able to use the ceasefire to alleviate the civilian population’s suffering. “Over the past few weeks, aid has arrived even in the last few places which had till then been completely cut off from support,” the Minister said. Germany, as one of the largest donors, has already made available more than 2 billion euros for humanitarian assistance in Syria, thus helping hundreds of thousands of people affected by the war.
“A return to talks is urgently needed”
However, progress on the humanitarian front can only bear fruit if the military conflict becomes a political process. “A return to the Geneva talks is urgently needed. We will not be able to maintain a lasting ceasefire unless we make progress in the political process,” said Steinmeier. This is why one of the things he discussed with UN Special Envoy de Mistura was instruments and strategies to get the parties to the conflict back around one table.
For that, though, even closer coordination was needed within the international community, de Mistura emphasised, praising the most recent consultations between the United States and Russia. “The timing is important now,” said de Mistura, before making clear that it was vital for peace talks between the parties to the conflict in Syria to start within the next few weeks.