Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the following in an interview he gave to the “Welt am Sonntag” newspaper on 31 January:
From Lebanon to Syria and Iraq to Yemen, crises and violent conflicts throughout the Middle East are inextricably tied up with the deep rift between Shiites and Sunnis and the struggle for regional supremacy between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran. Each fresh escalation of tensions between Tehran and Riyadh adds fuel to the fire and makes any attempt to settle conflicts more difficult.
This ruinous development is primarily making itself felt in the struggle for progress on the Geneva peace talks for Syria, which are supposed to finally spark hope of an end to the bloodshed and start the journey towards political settlement. This cannot and will not work without concerted pressure from outside, which must involve the regional powers working together. In Yemen too, the UN negotiation effort has been at an impasse since the beginning of the year, and fighting has broken out again in full force. The suffering of the people continues.
The more comfortable position would of course be to say we simply want nothing to do with countries that have other ideas about human rights, freedom of opinion or the role of women – to say that we don’t want to get our hands dirty. But foreign policy has never worked like that, and it certainly can’t work like that in a vastly complex world full of dangerous conflicts. It goes without saying that problems do need to be spoken about openly – but we can’t do that from our armchairs; we need to go and engage in talks. That is the only way to bring about change.
Even our own interest alone would dictate that we need to do all we can to prevent tensions spiralling unchecked and to use what options we have to keep channels of communication open and help build confidence.