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Germany's Merkel: 'war-criminal' Assad will never be an ally

Merkel says she has kept an "open mind" to working with president-elect Trump [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 November, 2016

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Obama and Merkel have been close allies and vocal critics of the Assad regime in Syria, but with the US President set to leave office thoughts have turned to Trump.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is guilty of committing war crimes against civilian populations in Syria and is not seen as an “ally” of Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a joint-press conference with Barack Obama in Berlin on Thursday.

"Assad has actively tried to kill his own people. He has bombed them with barrel bombs in a most terrible way. He has brought untold suffering over his people -- if you look at Aleppo and other places,” added Merkel.

“When you talk to the many Syrian refugees who have fled here to Germany, they will tell you their own personal story, and the majority of them -- the great majority of them -- fled from Assad, and most of them did not even flee IS. So I don’t see him as an ally.”

For his part Obama, the outgoing US President, has been heavily critical of the Assad regime over the course of Syria’s now nearly six year-long war. However, Obama has been criticised for not doing enough on Syria.

Obama struck a similar tone to Merkel, warning that “indiscriminate attacks” carried out by the Syrian regime and Russia in Syria would “only worsen the humanitarian catastrophe”.

“A negotiated end to the Syrian conflict is the only way to achieve lasting peace in Syria,” said Obama, who was in Berlin to discuss issues including the Syrian crisis, the fight against IS, Russian sanctions, and the future of EU-US trade agreements in the wake of Donald Trump’s surprise election victory.

When you talk to the many Syrian refugees who have fled here to Germany, they will tell you their own personal story, and the majority of them fled from Assad
Angela Merkel, German Chancellor

During the visit, Obama struck an ominous tone. Alluding to election results in his own country and the increasing emergence, in mainstream European politics, of parties and political figures advocating right-wing stances, the US President warned that an impending shift in global geo-politics could contribute to a “meaner, harsher, more troubled world”.

"Whoever is president and whoever is the chancellor of Germany and whoever is the leader of other European nations and other democracies around the world, they need to recognise that," Obama said, addressing reporters in Berlin.

"There are going to be forces that argue for cynicism. For looking the other way with somebody else's problems. That are not going to champion people who are vulnerable because sometimes that's politically convenient."

"If we don't have a strong transatlantic alliance that's standing up for those things, we will be giving to our children a worse world," added Obama. "We will go backwards instead of forwards.

"There are going to be forces that argue for cynicism. For looking the other way with somebody else's problems. That are not going to champion people who are vulnerable because sometimes that's politically convenient."
Barack Obama, current US President

With regards to Syria’s ongoing civil war, critics have argued that president-elect Trump’s affinity to Russian President Vladimir Putin could see the billionaire media mogul more open to a future settlement in Syria that favours the Syrian regime, neogiated through Moscow, and less critical of an ongoing, major Russian-led assault on rebel-held East Aleppo.

Germany has been one of the most vocal of any states worldwide regarding the actions of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad whose forces are responsible for more civilian deaths than any other combatant force active in Syria. Over 1 million Syrian refugees are said to have travelled to Germany in the last year seeking asylum, a policy that Trump, echoing German far-right groups such as AfD, has said is “ruining Germany”.

However, speaking on Thursday, Merkel chose the diplomatic approach, praising Obama for handling the transition period to date smoothly despite “a very tough election campaign”. Expressing gratitude that “the outgoing administration is sharing its knowledge, its expertise with the incoming administration” Merkel said she was keeping an “open mind” to the prospect of working with Trump.

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