German, Russian foreign ministers to discuss Syria

By Ayhan Simsek

BERLIN (AA) – German Foreign Minister said he will meet his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Berlin on Sept. 14 to discuss ways to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Syria’s Idlib province.

Addressing lawmakers at the parliament on Wednesday, Heiko Maas said Germany’s coalition government was making every effort to contribute a political solution.

“On Friday, the Russian foreign minister will be here. I will tell him exactly the following: We are expecting from Russia to assume its responsibility to prevent a humanitarian disaster in Syria’s Idlib,” he said.

Maas was referring to the threats by the regime to begin a large-scale military offensive on the last opposition stronghold.

Maas underlined that Germany would continue its humanitarian assistance for Syrians, but ruled out support to a reconstruction program before a political change in Damascus.

-Efforts for ceasefire

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman stressed on Wednesday that a ceasefire in Syria could only be possible with Russia’s active support.

“Russia and Iran, as conflict parties, bear special responsibility,” Steffen Seibert told a press conference in Berlin.

Seibert said, “Russia has an influence on the Syrian regime, which is vital to deter a military escalation and to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.

Prospects for a ceasefire would either stand or fall on the stance of Russia,” he added.

Located near the Turkish border, Idlib province is home to more than 3 million Syrians, many of whom fled from other cities following attacks by regime forces.

The Syrian regime has recently announced plans to launch a major military offensive to the area, long controlled by various armed opposition groups.

The UN warned that such an offensive would lead to the "worst humanitarian catastrophe in the 21st century".