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"Russia must increase the pressure"

25.08.2013 - Interview

An interview with Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle concerning the current situation in Syria and developments in Egypt. Published in the 25 August 2013 edition of the Kieler Nachrichten.

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The situation in Syria has escalated so far that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for “serious consequences”. Do you see it that way, too?

It is necessary for United Nations inspectors to be given immediate access to the areas affected to complete their independent investigations. We support the United Nations Secretary-General in his call for this. If these reports are then confirmed, we will be talking about a case of a crime against civilisation.

Will the international community have to intervene militarily if it is proven beyond doubt that the Assad regime used poison gas?

I refuse to speculate about that. We are currently discussing possible options and consequences with our partners. I just spoke on the phone with United States Secretary of State John Kerry. We agree that the international community’s position needs to be as unified as possible. Russia needs to increase the pressure on Damascus, so that the UN inspectors can actually do their job.

Is the international community really doing everything it can to obtain the necessary evidence? Given the technical capabilities of Western armies, a non-expert can hardly understand why this decisive question has not yet been cleared up.

In such dramatic situations, it would not be sensible to jump to conclusions. We need evidence and serious discussions.

To the public, the most recent decisions by European Foreign Ministers concerning Egypt seem rather like an expression of helplessness. Can you understand this perspective?

The West’s options are certainly limited. But we will make the most of these limited options. Whoever talks of diplomatic impotence has the notion of a diplomatic omnipotence that does not exist. Egypt’s fate will not be decided in Berlin or Brussels, but rather in Egypt itself. That we are taking action is shown by the quick, clear decisions made by the European Foreign Ministers this week. We want to see an end to the violence and do our part in a successful return to constitutionality so that free elections are possible in the end. At the same time, we cannot jeopardize the channels of communication we have to the parties to the conflict in Egypt.

You personally have to live with the charge of implementing a foreign policy so cautious that is has no effect. In retrospect, do you think you were too cautious in dealing with the “Arab Spring”?

I think the term “Arab Spring” is wrong. It would be better for us to speak of “Arab Seasons” because we have to take a differentiated approach to developments in the individual countries.

Have you made mistakes?

After my first visit to Tahrir Square shortly after the revolution, I was already warning of setbacks. Unfortunately, my concerns were justified.

Should not the West have had the courage to condemn the military’s assumption of power as a coup?

I think the category of “courage” is not appropriate here. That can quickly lead to recklessness. It is about the prudence of our diplomacy. Germany does not take sides for a political party, but rather for the people in Egypt, for democracy and the rule of law.

Two submarines are currently being built for Egypt here in Kiel. Do you believe that the country will use them some day?

I refuse to speculate about that. That is not up for decision at the moment.

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Interview: Kristian Blasel. Reproduced by kind permission of the Kieler Nachrichten.

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