x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Sheikh Abdullah stays 'positive' on Syria peace plan

Minister of Foreign Affairs and his German counterpart reiterate backing of UN proposals, urging unity as Saudis admit to 'losing hope'.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed and Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign affairs minister, discuss the Syrian reconstruction plan in Abu Dhabi yesterday.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed and Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign affairs minister, discuss the Syrian reconstruction plan in Abu Dhabi yesterday.

ABU DHABI // The Chinese and Russian stance on Syria is moving closer to the international community's position, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said yesterday.

Diplomatic efforts by the international community had resulted in "favourable responses" from Beijing and Moscow, he said.

"Communicating with China and Russia is important under all circumstances, and their recent statements have been understanding of our position and positive," Sheikh Abdullah told a press conference with the German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Abdullah's comments came as Russia said Mr Al Assad could leave power as part of a settlement to end bloodshed in Syria.

"We have never said or insisted that Assad necessarily had to remain in power at the end of the political process," Russia's deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov said.

Mr Westerwelle and Sheikh Abdullah yesterday both reiterated their full support for the Kofi Annan peace plan backed by the UN Security Council.

"It is true that Russia plays an important part in this situation but we have to convince them not to shield Syria and unite with the international community," Mr Westerwelle said.

"We know the instigators in Syria very well but we want to give the Kofi Annan plan a chance to succeed."

Mr Westerwelle said Germany would push for a non-military intervention plan in the security council to force the Syrian regime to step down.

"We have to give a clear and united stand within the international community as we have two objectives, to stop the violence in Syria and stop the crisis from conflagrating across the region".

Commenting on Saudi Arabia's view of the Annan peace plan, Sheikh Abdullah said: "Our main concern is supporting the Syrian people and not supporting something that will never end successfully and is not supported by them," he said.

The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud Al Faisal, said after a GCC foreign ministers meeting in Riyadh: "We have begun to lose hope in the possibility of reaching a solution within this framework", referring to the Annan initiative.

But Sheikh Abdullah said: "We have to support with all our effort the Annan peace plan as the consequences of its failure are huge and disturbing, not only for Syria but for the region as a whole."

Dr Clemens von Goetze, the German director general for foreign affairs, revealed that the Secretariat of the Friends of Syria economic recovery and development working group has been set up in Berlin.

The secretariat of the group, which Germany and the UAE, co-chair will be funded by both countries. "It has started work and is currently staffing in Berlin," he said.

"Work is expected to pick up quickly and develop within it."

The secretariat will oversee a four-step plan to help to rebuild the Syrian economy after the Assad regime ends.

It was established last month at the first Friends of Syria meeting in Abu Dhabi, with representatives of more than 60 nations. The plan covers the immediate measures needed to be taken after the fall of the regime, donor coordination, the development of a new economic policy and the role of the business sector.

Gunnar Waelzholz, from the German Reconstruction Bank, KfW, will head the secretariat.