Obama, Merkel disagree on ‘safe zone’ in Syria

US President Obama and German Chancellor Merkel disagree on ‘safe zone’ project in Syria.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Barack Obama speak to media during a news conference after their talks at Schloss Herrenhausen in Hanover, Germany April 24, 2016.

Updated Apr 25, 2016

The United States President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel disagreed on the ‘safe zone’ project on Monday, which aims to make Syrians feel safe from bombardment.

Obama said, in a joint press conference in Hannover, Germany, that it would be very difficult to see how a “safe zone” would work in Syria without a large military commitment.

"The issue surrounding a safe zone in Syrian territory is not a matter of an ideological objection on my part," Obama said.

"It's not a matter of me not wishing I could help and protect a whole bunch of people. It's a very practical issue about how do you do it?"

Obama presented a number of questions about such a zone, including what country will "put a bunch of ground troops inside of Syria," a country that has suffered six years of civil war.

Meanwhile, Merkel’s comments showed that there are differences of opinion between the two leaders. Merkel stressed that priority should be given to a safe zone project in the Geneva peace talks.

"I believe that if you had followed what I said yesterday in Turkey, it is something that has to come out of the Geneva peace talks; it is not about classical safe zones," she said during a news conference.

"Can one, when one speaks about a ceasefire, identify regions in the talks between the negotiating partners in Geneva where people can feel particularly safe. It is not about some influence from the outside but rather from within the talks," she added.

‘Deeply concerned about upsurge in fighting in Syria’

US President Barack Obama said on Sunday that he is "deeply concerned" about a recent increase in violence in Syria and that he continues to believe in the need for a political solution within the country.

"We remain deeply concerned about the upsurge in fighting in Syria over the last several days, and we continue to agree that the only real durable solution is a political solution that moves Syria towards an inclusive government that represents all Syrians," Obama said.

‘Right side of history’

Obama also praised Merkel's handling of the refugee crisis in Europe, in which millions of refugees have fled war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

"She is on the right side of history on this," Obama said adding "In this globalised world, it is very difficult for us to simply build walls."

Merkel visited a refugee camp in Turkey’s Syrian border town Gaziantep on Saturday with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, European Council head Donald Tusk and European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans.

Germany insists on an open-door policy over the refugee crisis while some EU countries object to this. Germany hosts 1.1 million refugees while Turkey hosts 2.5 million.

The success of the refugee deal between Turkey and EU, which has sharply reduced the number of people crossing from Turkey to Greece, was also called into question, with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) stating that the numbers were "once again ticking up."

Merkel had said her visit to Turkey was a chance to take stock of the implementation of the refugee deal and discuss the next steps, as well as evaluate conditions on the ground for those who have fled the devastating civil war in Syria that claimed 400,000 lives and caused more than 10 million of people to flee in and out of the country.

TRTWorld and agencies