Ahead of EU Presidency, Germany is Already Talking to Syria

Ahead of EU Presidency, Germany is Already Talking to Syria

German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, listened to the statement of his Syrian counterpart with a slight grimace on his face. "Syria has not isolated itself from the world," Walid Muallem explained at the Damascus airport, "but rather certain states have isolated themselves from Syria." This response to Steinmeier's demand that Syria should play a "constructive roll" in the region makes clear that diplomatic involvement with Syria does not in itself represent a way out of the, in Steinmeier's words, "difficult transitional phase" in the Middle East.

The press conference with Muallem in the VIP section of the Damascus airport last week concluded a five-day tour of the region by Steinmeier. There was a certain symbolism in the fact that Steinmeier had to walk beneath portraits of Bashar al-Assad and his late father, Hafez al-Assad, on his way to the German air force jet "Konrad Adenauer," which would take him back to Germany. According to Steinmeier's calculation, there can be no disarming Hezbollah without talking to the Assad regime and no resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict without taking Syria into account.

Since last summer's war in Lebanon, no other politician in the EU has pushed as hard as Joschka Fischer's 50-year-old successor for dialogue with the leadership of Syria: a country that hosts the international office of Hamas and that, as a recently submitted report by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan shows, is continuing to assure arms shipments to Hezbollah even after the end of the war.

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