Merkel says Assad must be involved in Syria talks

Merkel says Assad must be involved in Syria talks

BRUSSELS – Agence France-Presse
Merkel says Assad must be involved in Syria talks

A handout picture released by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (L) giving an interview to Russian media outlets on September 15, 2015 in the capital Damascus. AFP Photo

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should be involved in any Syrian peace talks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sep. 24 amid mounting pressure to end the four-year conflict.

“We have to speak with many actors, this includes al-Assad, but others as well,” Merkel told a press conference after an EU summit on the migration crisis sparked by the Syrian war.

“Not only with the United States of America, Russia, but with important regional partners, Iran, and Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia,” Merkel added.

The comments by the leader of Europe’s biggest political and economic power come amid increasing signs that Western powers who were once insistent on al-Assad’s departure may be softening their positions in a bid to end the war.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sept. 19 that although al-Assad must step down, that need not immediately be upon reaching a settlement to end the country’s civil war.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has made similar comments.

Russia and the United States launched military talks on the Syrian conflict last week as Moscow increased its build-up of forces in the war-torn country.

But French President François Hollande, whose country is set to launch air strikes against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants in Syria, insisted Sept. 24 that there could be no place for al-Assad.

“There can be no transition without his departure,” Hollande insisted after the summit. “The future of Syria will not pass through Bashar al-Assad.” 

Merkel, Hammond, Hollande and the other EU leaders issued a statement after the Brussels summit calling for a new push for peace.