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Germany 'ready to contribute to Syria rebuilding'

Germany has taken in more than a million refugees [Getty]

Date of publication: 14 September, 2018

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Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said his country is prepared to contribute to rebuilding Syria.

Germany is ready to contribute to rebuilding Syria if a political solution was found for fair elections in the country, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Friday.

Hours before the minister was due to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Berlin, Maas appeared to answer a request made by Russian President Vladimir Putin in August for Europe to step up in reconstructing Syria.

"If there's a political solution in Syria that leads to free elections, then we are ready to take on the responsibility of reconstruction," wrote Maas on Twitter.

"It is in our interest for Syria to be a stable country. For that, reconstruction is necessary. And we have an important role in that."

At the same time, Maas also underlined Berlin's demand for Moscow to use its influence to get President Bashar al-Assad to back off from a looming major offensive against opposition-held Idlib.

"I will impress upon my colleague Lavrov our expectations that there should be no major offensive in Idlib," Maas wrote.

Russia-backed regime forces have massed around Idlib in recent weeks, sparking fears of an imminent air and ground attack to retake the last major opposition bastion.

During a visit to Berlin in August, Putin had called on Europe to fund the reconstruction of Syria to allow millions of refugees to go home.

"We need to strengthen the humanitarian effort in the Syrian conflict," he said then. 

"By that, I mean above all humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, and help the regions where refugees living abroad can return to."

Germany has taken in more than a million asylum seekers since 2015, many fleeing wars in Syria and Iraq.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to keep Germany's borders open at the height of the refugee influx deeply divided her country. 

The UN has warned a full-fledged assault on Idlib could create the century's "worst humanitarian catastrophe", sending thousands more fleeing.

Postponed

On Thursday, the UN said more than 38,500 people have been displaced in less than two weeks due to violence in northwest Syria, amid increasing hostilities and a looming regime assault on the opposition-held Idlib province.

"Between 1-12 September, available information indicates that a sharp increase in hostilities and fears of further escalation has led to the displacement of over 38,500 people," the UN humanitarian agency said.

The latest remarks came as Syrian rebel commanders told Reuters that Ankara has sent weapons and ammunition to opposition forces in Idlib, to stave off an offensive to retake the rebel-held city.

Reports suggested the planned assault on the last rebel stronghold in Syria might be put on ice, as pro-regime media accounts report that the battle plan has been postponed until a later date.

"So it seems Idlib ops (divided into 3 stages) has been moved for a further date," tweeted one account.

This could be due to the Syrian regime, Russia, and Iran could have concluded that their forces would face much stronger resistance from the rebels in Idlib, than previously considered.

Turkey's vocal resistance to the offensive might have also been a stumbling block, with Ankara a key part of the Russian and Iranian-sponsored Astana peace process.

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