Germany's Merkel sees need to cooperate with Russia on Syria

Reuters , Saturday 12 Sep 2015

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Photo: Reuters)

Germany and other western European powers need to work with Russia as well as the United States to solve the crisis in Syria, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday.

Merkel was speaking ahead of a meeting of the German, Russian, French and Ukrainian foreign ministers being held in Berlin on Saturday evening.

Ukraine is due to be the main topic at Saturday's meeting but the foreign ministry in Berlin has said Syria would likely also be discussed.

Russia had called on Friday for cooperation with the United States to avoid "unintended incidents", as it stages naval exercises off the coast of Syria, where U.S. officials believe Moscow is building up forces to protect long-term ally President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian state media said on Saturday two Russian planes carrying 80 tonnes of humanitarian aid arrived in Syria. Russia said on Friday it had been sending military equipment to help the Syrian government fight Islamic State.

In an interview with regional German newspapers, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned Russia against going it alone in Syria, saying: "I hope that Russia is not depending on the Syrian civil war continuing."

Separately in a guest article for the New York Times, Steinmeier said the nuclear deal struck between Iran and six world powers had created an opportunity to tackle Syria's troubles, but said he was concerned that the chance to make progress was fading.

"It would be folly to continue betting on a military solution," he said. "Now is the time to find a way to bring the parties to the negotiating table. This must include preparatory talks with and among crucial regional actors like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, but also Iran."

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Friday Russia's escalated military involvement in Syria is an indication that al-Assad is worried and is turning to Russian advisers for help.

EU diplomats are concerned that Russia's military support for Assad will give him a sense of security and make him unwilling to think about a political solution in the civil war.

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