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No military solution to Syria conflict: Merkel

October 4, 2015

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said a political solution to Syria's conflict requires the participation of the current regime. She also defended Germany's asylum laws amid a refugee crisis caused in part by the war.

Man carrying girl away after bomb hits in Damascus
Image: Reuters/B. Khabieh

Speaking to German radio station Deutschlandfunk in an interview broadcast on Sunday, Merkel said a political process was needed to end Syria's civil war, although military intervention was also essential.

"Regarding Syria, as I have said: we will need military efforts, but military efforts will not bring the solution; we need a political process, but that has not been going very well so far," Merkel said.

In the most direct terms she has used so far, Merkel stressed that the current ruling regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must be involved in negotiations to find a resolution to the more than four-year-long conflict.

Syrien Präsident Bashar al-Assad
Countries differ on whether Assad should play a role in Syria's futureImage: picture alliance/dpa/Sana Handout

"To get to a political solution, I need both the representatives of the Syrian opposition and those who are currently ruling in Damascus, and others as well, to reach for real successes, and then, above all, also the allies of the respective groups," she said. The chancellor added that Russia, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Iran could all play a role, along with Germany, France and Britain.

No weakening of asylum laws

Turning to the current refugee crisis in Europe caused partly by the conflict in Syria, Merkel also told Deutschlandfunk that Germany would not weaken its laws on sheltering asylum seekers, which require that all those with a valid claim to asylum be taken in.

She did, however, reiterate that asylum processing had to be streamlined, and that those migrants who did not qualify for asylum would be required to leave Germany.

Angela Merkel speaking at microphone, dressed in blue
Merkel has faced both praise and blame for her handling of the refugee crisisImage: Reuters/M. Segar

Germany is currently facing a huge influx of migrants, many of them refugees fleeing conflict in places such as Syria and Afghanistan. Estimates say that as many as 1 million might seek refuge in Germany by the end of the year.

Merkel's remarks come after calls from members of the Christian Social Union (CSU) - the Bavarian sister party of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) - to loosen the requirement to accept asylum seekers in view of the strain being placed on the country by the numbers arriving.

Fences no solution

They have also proposed setting up fences on Germany's border, a suggestion that Merkel rejected as ineffective.

"I don't think that fences help. We saw that in Hungary," she said.

Hungary recently erected fences on its borders to the Balkans in a bid to keep migrants out, drawing widespread condemnation from fellow EU members.

Merkel also defended her decision to open Germany's borders to refugees, which has been most notably criticized by CSU leader Horst Seehofer. She said she would do the same again, adding that it had been apparent at the time that the stream of people could barely have been stopped anyway.

Although opposed to Merkel's action in September, Seehofer has not joined calls from within his party to amend Germany's asylum laws.

tj/rc (dpa, Reuters)