Germany′s Steinmeier warns Syria clock is ticking | News | DW | 23.03.2016
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Germany's Steinmeier warns Syria clock is ticking

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says there is no time to lose in agreeing upon a peace deal in Syria. Both he and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, also urged unity a day after the Brussels attacks.

Steinmeier on Wednesday urged all parties to press on urgently with talks aimed at somehow forging a lasting peace in Syria.

"We are all aware ... there is no time to lose. Nobody, also none of the parties to the conflict, should try to run down the clock at this point," Steinmeier told a news conference in Moscow after meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The German minister stressed that a prisoner exchange was among the first items that would need to be addressed, before bigger issues were addressed at the Geneva talks. "In the end, there must be a solution that preserves Syria as a single, secular state," he added.

Steinmeier also called for unity in the fight against terrorism. "It is in our common interests to counter these common threats," he said.

Lavrov call for end to games

For his part, Lavrov on Wednesday called for Europe to unite behind efforts to fight terrorism and drop its "geopolitical games" in light of the attacks in Brussels that killed some 30 people.

"I really hope that Europeans, in the face of the terrible threat of terrorism that occurred yesterday in Brussels, will put aside their geopolitical games and unite to prevent terrorists from acting on our continent," Lavrov was quoted by Russian agencies as having told Steinmeier.

Lavrov also accused Turkey of hindering Kurdish militants in their fight against "Islamic State" (IS) militants.

The various meetings in Moscow are expected to touch on a partial, fragile ceasefire that was declared on February 27. The truce has raised hopes for an end to the five-year Syrian conflict, which has killed more than 270,000 people, forcing millions to flee their homes.

Kyiv 'stalling,' says Moscow

The Russian foreign minister said he and Steinmeier had also addressed the issue of Ukraine, insisting that the Ukrainian government was stalling on the issue. Lavrov said the German government had proposed holding elections in he occupied areas of eastern Ukraine, but that Kyiv had opposed the idea.

Fighting in the industrial heartland of Ukraine has killed more than 9,100 people and left large areas under rebel control. Talks to bring the situation to a peaceful resolution have been mediated by Germany, France and Russia in the Belarusian capital, Minsk.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was scheduled to arrive in Moscow later on Wednesday for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov, with Syria expected to feature most prominently. Kerry was also scheduled to meet with Steinmeier for bilateral talks.

rc/jil (dpa, Reuters)

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