Bashar al-Assad just got himself a fairly important endorsement:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that President Bashar al-Assad should be involved in any Syrian peace talks amid pressure from the rising number of refugees from Syria.
Merkel made the comment on Thursday after a European Union summit on the asylum seeker crisis.
“We have to speak with many actors; this includes Assad, but others as well,” Merkel said. “Not only with the United States of America, Russia, but with important regional partners, Iran, and Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia.”
The long-standing European and American position is that Assad needs to step down as a precondition to talks, and though there have been hints recently that they’ve softened on that point, Merkel’s statement is the clearest yet that the West has resigned itself to Assad playing a role in any peace talks (and, presumably, in whatever transitional arrangement might follow). And this is the Chancellor of Germany we’re talking about, so the rest of Europe is going to have to pay attention (as is Washington).
Of course, the Syrian rebels (and the Turks, and the Saudis) have also been insisting that Assad must step down as a precondition to serious talks, and there’s no indication that they’ve softened that stance. European and American leaders (including Vladimir Putin) may continue to operate as though they and they alone are the actors that really matter when it comes to solving the Syria crisis, but that doesn’t make it so.
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