German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has warned all is not over yet in Syria despite various declarations of victory and peace and called for immediate UN-sponsored talks involving various players “around one table in Geneva.”
“No matter how much we wish there were peace after the long years of violence and conflict, the Syria crisis is not yet over. The ongoing fighting continues to affect many people with unrelenting severity, while the humanitarian situation remains dramatic,” Gabriel said.
He warned, “Syria will only find stability through an inclusive political settlement. We thus call on Assad’s supporters, particularly Russia and Iran, to do their utmost to ensure that the regime finally meets the opposition around one table in Geneva, begins substantive negotiations and no longer blocks the path to a sustainable solution to the conflict.”
Germany is providing a further 120 million euros for humanitarian assistance in Syria and its neighbouring countries, Gabriel said. “Over 13 million people – two thirds of the original population of Syria – need help to survive. Every day, we see images of starving children and almost indescribable destruction in areas that remain under siege by the regime such as Ghouta in eastern Damascus.”
Gabriel said Syria’s neighbouring countries, which provide so many desperate people with refuge and protection, continue to need our support. “They deserve our great respect for everything they have done to help overcome the enormous need. Lasting peace cannot be achieved by military means,” he said.
Analysts interviewed by The Middle East in Europe say one key issue yet to be explored or investigated in Europe in and outside the EU is the military supplies and cash transferred over the years by western powers vying for competing outcomes in Syria.
These pre-eminent analysts, who choose not to be identified, say any comprehensive Geneva talks must also explore and identify controversial roles played by several external powers in aggravating the security situation in Syria.
Deprivation and humanitarian need are becoming increasingly evident in areas that are only now opening up to aid workers, the more IS is forced to retreat. In addition to providing people with food, medicine and other aid relief, humanitarian efforts are focusing on protecting groups that are most vulnerable, such as children, women and senior citizens.
Before winter starts, UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) will receive an additional 60 million euros and the UN humanitarian funds a further 15 million euros to protect people in Syria and its neighbouring countries who are particularly in need and to provide internally displaced persons and refugees with warm clothing and accommodation that can withstand winter conditions.
Germany says it is providing a further 15 million euros to the World Food Programme (WFP) to safeguard food supplies for hundreds of thousands of refugees in Lebanon and Jordan. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) will receive a further 25 million euros and 5 million euros respectively. Palestinian refugees are one of the groups in Syria most in need of protection and support.
The United Nations’ aid programmes for Syria and the region are significantly underfunded. In 2017, the German Government provided approximately 720 million euros in total for humanitarian assistance in the context of the Syria crisis, thus making it the second largest humanitarian donor in the world after the United States.