Merkel's Syria summit plan offers new hope

Merkel's Syria summit plan offers new hope
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday she and the leaders of Turkey, Russia and France planned to hold a summit next month on the situation in war-ravaged Syria. (AFP)
Updated 29 September 2018

Merkel's Syria summit plan offers new hope

Merkel's Syria summit plan offers new hope
  • Merkel: We are in favor of a four-way meeting with the presidents of Turkey, Russia and France and myself because the situation (in Syria) is still fragile.
  • Merkel said the talks were particularly urgent in light of the fraught situation in Syria’s rebel-held province of Idlib.

JEDDAH: German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced  on Friday that the leaders of Turkey, Russia, Germany and France planned to hold a summit next month on the situation in war-ravaged Syria.

“We are in favor of a four-way meeting with the presidents of Turkey, Russia and France and myself because the situation (in Syria) is still fragile,” Merkel told reporters after talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “We aim to do this in October.”

Merkel said the talks were particularly urgent in light of the fraught situation in Syria’s opposition-controlled province of Idlib.

“I think the Syrian file is stuck in the same region and must be dealt with quickly,” said Bahia Mardini, a human rights campaigner and the founder of Syrian House, an organization dedicated to helping Syrians in the UK. Speaking to Arab News, she said the Syrians wanted a political solution soon. 

“We no longer attach much hope to the conferences and meetings and summits. We want international consensus and a speedy resolution of the Syrian file that guarantees the return of all Syrians and ensures their safety and property,” she said.

Meanwhile, a joint statement by the foreign ministers of Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UK and the US, stressed the need for the urgent convening of a constitutional committee to advance the UN’s efforts to achieve a political solution to the conflict on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

“The Syrian conflict has dragged on for more than seven years at the expense of hundreds of thousands of lives lost and millions forcibly displaced by violence both within Syria and beyond its borders. There is an urgent need for concerted diplomacy and international political will to end the conflict. There is no military solution to the war and no alternative to a political solution,” said the statement.

It added: “We affirm in the strongest terms that those who seek a military solution will only succeed in increasing the risk of a dangerous escalation and wider conflagration of the crisis to the region and beyond.” 

Separately, a senior American official has said that the US would stay in Syria as long as Iran maintains its presence, but the US role will not necessarily involve troops. 

James Jeffrey, the US special representative on Syria, was clarifying recent comments by senior officials who appeared to suggest that troops would stay indefinitely to counter Iran.

Asked if President Donald Trump was making US withdrawal contingent on the removal of Iranian forces, Jeffrey told reporters on the sidelines of the UN: “The president wants us in Syria until that and the other conditions are met. But he added: “’Us’ is not necessarily American boots on the ground.”

He said: “There are many ways that we can be on the ground. We’re certainly on the ground diplomatically,” adding that no options were definite.

“Boots on the ground have the current mission of the enduring defeat of Daesh.”