Syria’s disaster has landed on German doorsteps in the form of hundreds of thousands of refugees. This makes Germany an interested party, not an observer, in the Syrian civil war. Chancellor Angela Merkel is now urging peace talks that would include President Bashar al-Assad, writes Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.
Whether it is a bluff or not, Russia’s new military presence in Syria strengthens Assad's position.
Ms Merkel’s call is significant because, until now, the European position had been that Syria’s government would only be invited to the negotiating table if it agreed to remove the president. The West has been consistent throughout the civil war in its support for anti-Assad forces, including some very radical groups.
The precondition that Assad must step down and face prosecution at the International Criminal Court frustrated all attempts at a peace settlement.
In the meantime, some 200,000 people have been killed, more than 4 million refugees have fled Syria and 8 million are displaced inside the country.
Many of these people were prompted to flee by atrocities committed by anti-Assad groups, including those supported by the West. The Syrian conflict is a classic example of a proxy war being waged for foreign interests – Iran and Saudi Arabia foremost, among many others.
From the beginning, it was obvious that any peace talks excluding the Assad regime were doomed to fail – as GIS reported in January 2014.
Only now, after a huge death toll and a humanitarian disaster that has started to wash up on Europe’s shores, is the West starting to adapt its position.
It is really a question of priorities. What is more important: to enforce the view that Assad must be prosecuted, even if that results in suffering for millions, or to seek a compromise that may lead to peace and limits the misery? Prosecuting Assad is probably a legitimate aim under international law. But how does that stack up against the toll in Syria?
As unjust as it may seem, achieving a peaceful solution to such a complex civil and geopolitical conflict takes precedence over targeting an evil regime. The important thing is to save lives, which in Syria may involve some kind of federal solution. Perhaps accountability can come later.
Syria's al-Assad - an option among several evils?
Success needs compromise in Syrian peace talks