Prospects for a Fresh Start – International Working Group on Syria Meets in Berlin
Germany is providing support for a political and economic fresh start in Syria after the end of the Assad regime. In this spirit, the German Government invited its partners from the Group of Friends of the Syrian People to Berlin for a September 4 meeting at the Federal Foreign Office to consult with representatives of the Syrian opposition on strategies for the economic reconstruction of the violence-ravaged country.
Enlarge image Syrian refugees arrive at Zaatari Syrian refugee camp, in Mafraq, Jordan, August 27, 2012. (© picture alliance / dpa) This was the second meeting of the Working Group on Economic Recovery and Development, which met for the first time in Abu Dhabi on May 24. Germany and the United Arab Emirates jointly chair the group. In a speech to open the conference, Foreign Minister Westerwelle said “the days of the regime are numbered,” adding that the violence in Syria had to be stopped and a transitional government needed to be formed. Westerwelle added that it was important for the opposition to establish a “common platform” which is committed to democracy, tolerance and pluralism. Those attending the meeting in Berlin hailed from more than 60 countries and included Syrian opposition leaders such as Syrian National Council President Abdelbaset Sieda and Bassma Kodmani of the Syrian Business Forum.
Setting the course for the future
The Working Group wants to set the course for Syria’s future after the end of the Assad regime. The Syrian people are afflicted not only by ongoing violence, but also by shortages of supplies and economic distress. Abdelbaset Sieda has called for a Marshall Plan for his country. At the meeting, Minister Westerwelle likewise expressed his conviction that the political transition could only succeed if the economic conditions of the Syrian people improved. He said in his speech that the international community needed to be prepared to assist swiftly when the time came. At the same time, he added, the international community also needed to tend to those currently in need. To date, Germany has provided 22 million euros for such humanitarian assistance, especially targeting refugees. The German Government is staying in close contact with aid organizations and Syria’s neighbours, which have taken in many refugees, in order to keep targeting assistance to the places where it is most needed.
At Foreign Minister Westerwelle’s initiative, the Group of Friends of the Syrian People decided on February 24, 2012, in Tunis to set up the Working Group on Economic Recovery and Development. The Working Group aims to offer the international community a forum to coordinate support for the reconstruction and development of Syria after the end of the Assad regime. The group is also intended to give the Syrian opposition a chance to develop an economic policy profile with support from the international community and to work out ideas for the country’s economic and social reconstruction. Germany has established a Secretariat in Berlin to support the working group so that it can operate more quickly and effectively. The German Government has agreed to provide initial funding of up to 600,000 euros for the Secretariat’s first six months.