Germany, UN push for new Syria peace talks | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 22.07.2016
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Germany, UN push for new Syria peace talks

German Foreign Minister Steinmeier and UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura are attempting to reinvigorate peace talks between warring factions in Syria. A new round of talks could begin as early as August.

"The current situation in Syria is anything but satisfactory," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in Berlin on Friday. He pointed to conditions in Aleppo and the fact that it has been impossible to restart the stalled Geneva peace talks.

"We will never attain a lasting ceasefire without a corresponding political process," emphasized Steinmeier. He exchanged thoughts on the chances of doing so with Staffan de Mistura, the UN's special envoy to Syria, whom he hosted at his office in the German capital.

Schweiz Genf Staffan de Mistura UN Syrien Vermittler

De Mistura is optimistic about Syria talks between the US and Russia

"The next three weeks are going to be extremely important to give a chance for not only intra-Syrian talks, but also some possibility of reducing violence," de Mistura told reporters at the German Foreign Office, adding he and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon "are determined to actually look for a proper date in August" for new Syria talks.

The experienced Swedish-Italian diplomat has found hope in the fact that the United States and Russia are apparently trying to come up with a common course of action to end the conflict. "We are eagerly waiting to see those steps become concrete and visible," said de Mistura.

International negotiations

Staffan de Mistura's Berlin visit is one of a long series of meetings that have taken place over the last several days, in an attempt to make progress toward peace in Syria and the region. On Tuesday, Steinmeier conferred in London with his counterparts from Great Britain, Italy, France and the US, as well as with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Federica Mogherini, about the stalled peace process.

"In the end there will be no solution if we cannot begin a process that brings part of the Syrian opposition back to Syria and lets share in governmental responsibility," stressed Steinmeier from the UK capital.

On Thursday, some 40 foreign and defense ministers from the US-led coalition against the Islamic State (IS) met in Washington, D.C., where they agreed to increase military pressure on the group. Even if IS is not at the negotiating table in Geneva - it will not make the situation in Syria any less tense.

Schweiz Genf Staffan de Mistura UN Syrien Vermittler

De Mistura is optimistic about Syria talks between the US and Russia

Experts say the military aim will be to drive IS out of two of its strongholds - Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in northern Syria. Yet the head of US Central Command, General Joseph Votel, warned "that is a very complicated fight." And it must be remembered that IS is only one part of the complex Syrian conflict.

Aid from Germany

According to the Foreign Office, Germany is one of the biggest international donors of humanitarian aid to war-torn Syria: So far, it has given more than 2 billion euros ($2.4 billion). Recently, another 100 million euros was pledged to the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) for the supply of food to Syrian refugees in Lebanon. De Mistura praised Germany's reputation and credibility in the region. The WFP has also established airlift routes to closed-off areas within Syria. Some six million people are in desperate need of help in the country, and many of them are hard to reach. The Foreign Office in Berlin warned that despite such efforts the country is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe.

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