Beirut- The refugee crisis, the war in Syria and the ability of the EU to ensure security were the key topics for discussion at the 52nd Munich Security Conference (MSC).
On Thursday, decision-makers from around the world started gathering for the MSC, which will be held from February 12 to 14 in Munich and will be attended by around 600 senior global figures.
Top politicians are expected to examine the international response to the current refugee crisis engulfing Europe and a number of Middle Eastern and African countries.
A host of senior officials are attending the conference, including Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his US counterpart John Kerry, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini, and the foreign ministers of Iran and Saudi Arabia, Mohammad Javad Zarif and Adel Al-Jubeir.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have opened talks in Munich trying to reconcile deep differences over a proposed cease-fire for the Syrian civil war.
“We made proposals on implementing a ceasefire, quite specific ones,” Lavrov said before the meeting. “We are waiting for a US response before putting them before the International Syria Support Group,” he added.
The Munich meeting brought together the various nations under the umbrella of the International Syria Support Group. It comes amid increasing concern over Russian airstrikes in support of a Syrian ground offensive against Aleppo, which has bolstered President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and which the U.S. and its allies fear spells death for efforts to reach a political solution to the bloody five-year civil war.
One of the main topics on the table for discussion will be the war in Syria, which has been ongoing since 2011.
Turkish sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Russians are seeking to reach a quick cease-fire to get out of trouble in Syria. The sources added that Russia is unable to fight longer as this war has already cost it 1.6 billion dollars, yet it also cannot stop and this is why it is looking for a way out of this crisis.
The sources indicated that Turkey has clearly told US that it is not planning to intervene militarily in Syria in the meantime; however, if the Kurds moved forward towards Azaz, Turkey will not just watch.
The main Syrian opposition group, the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee, demanded an end to Russia’s air campaign along with humanitarian steps before attending the next round of Geneva peace talks, scheduled for Feb. 25. “Russian air strikes must end to create a suitable atmosphere for negotiations,” Riyad Nassan Agha, a member of the HNC, told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“We are going to Geneva to put to the test the seriousness of the worldwide community in its promises to the Syrian people and the seriousness of the regime in implementing its humanitarian obligations”, he added.