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World cannot simply move on to the normal agenda

29.08.2013 - Interview

Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle spoke about the situation in Syria in an interview with the Freie Presse Chemnitz newspaper.Published on 29 August 2013

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Mr Westerwelle, Syria is overshadowing everything else just now.Will the West launch a military attack against the Assad regime?

I’m not going to get involved in any speculation about future developments.The use of chemical weapons in Syria is a crime against civilisation. We will be among those who consider that consequences will have to be drawn if it proves true that weapons of mass destruction have been used.

So the Federal Government would support a military attack by the US and Britain?

We are currently in an extremely serious situation. This is certainly not the time for speculation.However, I welcome Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent initiative to get the UN Security Council to look at the matter with a view to condemning in no uncertain terms the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction in Syria.I appeal to all members of the Security Council, especially Russia, to seize this opportunity to demonstrate a determined, joint stance against the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Has international diplomacy failed?

It has to be said that it’s most regrettable that the Security Council has not as yet been able to arrive at a common position thanks to Russia’s blockade. When chemical weapons of mass destruction are used for the first time in the 21st century with such dreadful repercussions, the world cannot simply ignore the fact and just move on to the normal agenda.

What concrete evidence is there that the Assad regime was indeed responsible for the terrible attack?

The reports and images coming out of Syria as well as the assessments by NGOs on the ground speak a clear language. It is good that the United Nations inspectors are currently in Syria.

So to your mind the evidence is conclusive?

It is very plausible. Our allies are very clear in their assessment.They have said that they intend to publish the facts they have in their possession about the chemical attack very soon. The United Nations intends to do the same.

What would be the aim of a military attack?The US and the UK have said it’s not a matter of toppling the regime.Isn’t that a bit half-hearted?

We have to make a clear distinction between the international community’s response to an unacceptable breach of a taboo, the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction, on the one hand and, on the other, the civil war and our continuing commitment to seeking a political solution, which is the only way to ensure peace and stability in Syria in the long term.

German Patriot missiles are in place at the Turkish-Syrian border.Are you afraid that German soldiers will be drawn into the conflict?

The Bundestag granted a mandate for the purely defensive use of Patriot missiles, and that mandate is being rigorously adhered to.

Is the Federal Government united on the question of Syria?Do you take the same position as the Federal Chancellor?

Of course.

You recently spoke with your Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.What might be done to get the Russians to come on board?

Russia has always said that it emphatically rejects the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction. I hope that means we’ll see a shift in Russia’s behaviour on the Security Council.

What solution is there for Syria in general?Some experts are already talking about possibly dividing the country.

Lasting stability and sustainable peaceful development throughout Syria can only be achieved with a political solution. And that’s what we are working for, even if the chances haven’t exactly improved recently.

How will Israel behave?

Israel is very worried about its own security, not least in view of the violence flaring up again in Lebanon and the situation in Sinai.We share those concerns.

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Interview by Stephan Lorenz.Reproduced by kind permission of the Freie Presse Chemnitz newspaper.

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