By Ayhan Simsek
BERLIN (AA) – Germany said on Friday it expects Russia to use its influence on the Syrian regime to prevent a large-scale military offensive in the last opposition stronghold of Idlib.
Ahead of a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Berlin, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told German press agency DPA that recent developments in Syria will be one of the main topics of discussion at their meeting.
“We would convey to the Russian side our expectations that there should be no large-scale military offensive on Idlib, that there should be a political process in Syria and guarantees should be given to those people who fled from Syria but would like to return to the country,” he said.
Maas underlined that Russia has a key role to play in averting the regime’s military offensive on Idlib, which is home to more than 3 million civilians.
“It’s about avoiding the worst case scenario, namely another a humanitarian catastrophe,” he said.
Germany’s top diplomat reaffirmed his country’s strong support to UN-led efforts for a political solution, but underlined that Berlin’s support to a reconstruction program in Syria would be conditional.
“If there would be a political solution in Syria, which would lead to free elections, then we would be ready to take responsibility for the reconstruction. It is in our interest to have Syria as a stable country,” he added.
Maas was skeptical of Russia’s recent proposals for the return of refugees to their home in Syria.
“This will not work, when people do not want to use such an opportunity, as they face persecution, imprisonment and expropriation risks,” he said.
Maas also questioned a possible role for Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad in the future.
“We cannot think of a durable solution with Assad,” he said, adding that Syrian people will decide on the political future of their country.