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Middle East

Roth: Syria 'needs the international community'

Thousands of Syrians are fleeing the civil war. Co-chair of Germany's Green Party Claudia Roth says Germany and other nations need to take responsibility for the refugees.

DW: Thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war at home, with an estimated 150,000 refugees in Jordan and 50,000 in Turkey. You visited the Syrian-Turkish border zone this week. What were your impressions?

Claudia Roth: I've heard about the experiences of people who have fled Syria and the violent situations they've faced: Fathers who lost their daughters and children afraid of their parents dying. I have also experienced Turkey as demonstrating what it means to be neighborly and humane to the 50,000 people living in refugee camps there. That number reflects only those people who have been taken into the camps. There are many more receiving shelter privately. Around 300,000 Syrians are now residing outside of their country, but the situation for more than one and a half million people in Syria seems to be deteriorating dramatically. They desperately need humanitarian aid. They need food, medical care and water. And they need an international community that isn't piling its various interests on to the backs of the Syrian population.

It seems evident that the civil war in Syria will drag on for some time. Do the refugee camps in Syria's neighboring countries have sufficient capacity to take in more and more refugees?

I think we should tell the receiving countries that nations like Germany are prepared to take in refugees, if people would like to come to us. In Germany, there are many people with roots in Syria and who speak Arabic, and I think there is a lot of willingness to say: Yes, we are willing to take responsibility for people who need protection. Due to the escalation of violence in Aleppo in recent days, the number of refugees seeking safety has increased. We must provide more than lovely gestures. A clear offer to Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon is needed.

A Syrian refugee man surrounded by children (Photo:Vadim Ghirda/AP/dapd)

Roth: Germany should offer to take in refugees, as well



Do you think it's possible that there can still be a political solution - perhaps under the new UN special envoy? The expected appointee, Lakhdar Brahimi, is very experienced in crisis diplomacy.

The tragedy in Syria is that the conflict has been internationalized. I mean, there are very, very divergent interests at play, whether from Russia, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey or the USA. These divergent interests are being put on Syrians' backs. It's about the international community sitting down together with the clear goal of building a framework that can usher in a new Syria after Assad and put an end to the murders.

I think delivering more weapons to the country is the wrong approach. In my experience, Syria needs an humanitarian offensive - not more weapons and not more mercenaries, in particular. In the Turkish province of Hatay, for example, they come from a variety of countries, like Chechnya, Libya or Bangladesh. These mercenaries definitely don't have democracy in mind. Instead, they may be trying to erect their idea of a religious state in Syria.

The new envoy to Syria needs an international community that is working together rather than chasing their own interests. Otherwise it could lead to an escalation and religious or ethnic conflicts. That could ignite a wildfire that spreads throughout the region, which would be disastrous.

A Syrian refugee girl stands next to the Turkish Red Crescent tents at the Boynuyogun refugee camp REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Refugees in Boynuyogun, Turkey



So it's not just the remaining supporters of Syria - Russia, China and Iran - but the international community as a whole that needs to act?

Yes, everyone has a duty. As I see it, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are not sterling examples of democracy or religious tolerance. The Saudis and Qataris represent the interests of the Sunnis, just as Iran stands for the interests of Shiites. If the conflict escalates further, then we will get entirely new forms of religious disputes and confrontations, which could affect Turkey or Iraq.

I think we urgently need a conference where all affected parties sit down together, including Iran. It would be too easy to say that it's only Russia or China or Iran that are holding the bag here. In other countries, there are enough interests at stake - for example in those places that have sent mercenaries to set up a religious state. We should spare that fate to the Syrians who wanted what people in other Arab states sought - namely an Arab Spring that could bring democracy after 40 years of dictatorship.

Claudia Roth co-chairs Germany's Green Party and visited the Syrian-Turkish border zone on August 9, 2012.

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