Austrian Minister: Deal With Assad, But Only Short Term


UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Austria’s foreign minister said Monday that European nations are increasingly contemplating some role for the Syrian regime at negotiations to end the war in that country and suggested a compromise that could include President Bashar Assad but only for the short term.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, one of the European Union’s most influential countries, last week said she favored including Assad in any broad set of future negotiations. That position is supported by Russia and Iran but opposed by the United States and Saudi Arabia. Leaders attending the U.N. Summit are actively trying to find a formula acceptable to all sides.

In an interview with The Associated Press Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said that his country is “on the same wave-length with Washington.” But he said a “realistic view” means possibly including in talks “not only those that you do not agree with but also those “that you rightly condemn” — an allusion to Assad, who is blamed by the West for the more than four-year war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of victims.

Kurz suggested that any “contact group” working to bring peace to Syria would have to include not only the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran but the Assad regime at least initially. But “it won’t be in Assad’s hands to determine the future of Syria” if supporters like Russia and Iran agree with the West on a formula on Syria’s future acceptable to both sides he added.

The flow of refugees fleeing Syria and other conflict regions is another hot topic at the U.N. meeting, and Kurz said there is increasing EU agreement on creating a joint mechanism to enforce controls on the European Union’s external borders.

That would probably mean that thousands — police, civil servants and others — would be needed not only to enforce such borders and decide who has the right to apply for asylum before entering. But Kurz said there is “readiness to provide the manpower” as well as the funds to make such a mechanism effective.