The situation in Syria remains catastrophic, with hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the war. There are almost three million Syrians in areas where humanitarian access is difficult. The international community is trying to improve the humanitarian situation. At the same time, progress is needed on the process to bring about a political settlement. To this end, Nassir al-Hariri, coordinator of the Syrian opposition, visited the Federal Foreign Office for talks on Friday (19 January).
Frank discussion on a political settlement
Al-Hariri first met State Secretary Walter Lindner, who assured him, as a representative of the Syrian opposition, of Germany’s support in the political process. Lindner also paid tribute to the constructive role played by the SNC (the Syrian opposition) and encouraged al-Hariri to continue pursuing its pragmatic course with determination. A national dialogue conference initiated by Russia is due to take place in Sochi at the end of the month. This conference could produce positive input for the political process in Geneva, but only if it does not create a parallel process. A political settlement under the auspices of the United Nations remains the only way forward. That was also made clear in al-Hariri’s talks with Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who said that the next round of talks in Vienna must show how serious Russia is about bringing the Syrian regime to the negotiating table.
The humanitarian situation in Syria has hardly improved at all – on the contrary, it is becoming worse in many parts of the country due to heavy fighting, which often affects civil infrastructure. Over 13 million people still rely on life-saving humanitarian assistance, while basic needs are not being met in many places. Syria and its neighbouring countries, which along with Syria itself have to shoulder the main burden of the crisis, will thus remain a priority of Germany’s humanitarian assistance in 2018. In 2017, the Federal Foreign Office provided approximately 720 million euros in humanitarian assistance to Syria and its neighbouring countries.
What is the Federal Foreign Office doing to help?
The humanitarian measures being carried out by the Federal Foreign Office’s partners range from distributing food packages and providing essential supplies to helping hospitals to keep running, thus upholding a healthcare system in parts of the country held by the opposition that meets at least the most urgent needs. The Federal Foreign Office and its partners are using all possible access routes to ensure that aid reaches even those in areas under siege who are being systematically starved, as in Eastern Ghouta. The Federal Foreign Office’s humanitarian partner organisations are also providing support in the latest acute crisis in Idlib province, thus safeguarding the survival of those affected.
Protecting humanitarian aid workers is the main priority
This work often involves acute danger for humanitarian aid workers. Since the outbreak of the conflict, hundreds of humanitarian aid workers, particularly medical staff, have been killed by targeted attacks on hospitals. Aid convoys have been bombed and the staff of humanitarian NGOs have frequently been threatened, intimidated and abducted. Syrian aid organisations are affected in particular, but despite all the danger and hardship, they continue to provide urgently needed aid. The Federal Foreign Office will continue its endeavours to ensure that help reaches those who so urgently need it and that humanitarian aid workers receive the protection they need in their life-saving work.