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Germany Struggles with Rage over Syria, Refugee Crises - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) speaks to German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, in this February 13, 2016 file picture. REUTERS/Michael Dalder/File

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) speaks to German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, in this February 13, 2016 file picture. REUTERS/Michael Dalder/File

In Munich Security Conference, an annual event where leaders and diplomats from Europe, the Middle East and the United States gather to debate the world’s problems, Europe’s reluctant hegemon Germany, stressed its efforts on finding ways to best lead in view of multiple overlapping crises, with no one heeding its path.

The conference also ended with a low-spirited note casting doubts over a fledgling truce plan for Syria, with Russia defiant and confrontational, and Berlin struggling to win over European allies in the refugee crisis.

“You have leaders who are disconcerted and overwhelmed,” said Constanze Stelzenmueller, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, describing this year’s gathering as “oddly limp”.

“The lack of confidence is as pervasive as a damp fog. Germany is doing its best on the diplomatic front, but there is a real struggle to find pragmatic solutions and form effective coalitions.”

Later in the day, a meeting of major powers hosted by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier agreed to a “cessation of hostilities” in Syria, giving hope to a five-year war that has killed at least 250,000 people and forced millions to seek refuge around the world.

However, signatories to the deal itself were revaluating it within hours. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the chances of it failing were greater than success, and made clear Moscow would not stop its air strikes in support of Syrian forces descending on the northern city of Aleppo.

Lavrov’s remarks and those of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev seemed to dash hopes of a more constructive approach from Moscow. Medvedev warned of a new Cold War and recalled President Vladimir Putin’s confrontational Munich speech of 2007, in which he accused the United States of a destructive drive to become the world’s “one single master”.

“They were both here to deliver a telegram from Putin,” said Francois Heisbourg, special adviser to the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research. “The message was: we don’t take you seriously, and we’re going to make life difficult for you 24/7.”

On Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his German counterpart Steinmeier did their best to sound optimistic.

But on Sunday, one of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s senior conservative allies in parliament, Norbert Roettgen, told the was audience that he didn’t believe that Russia would play a constructive role in Syria, blaming Moscow for creating “facts on the ground” there to reinforce its negotiating position.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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