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Foreign minister evokes WWI in Syria appeal

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Foreign minister evokes WWI in Syria appeal
Steinmeier leaving Berlin for Montreux, Switzerland, on Tuesday night.
07:25 CET+01:00
Germany's foreign minister on Wednesday said the responsibility for the "humanitarian disaster" in Syria laid with the country's government and reminded a peace conference of what happened in World War I when democracy and diplomacy failed.
"War is always man-made. And it can only be stopped by man," Frank-Walter Steinmeier said, speaking at the Syria Peace Conference in Montreux, Switzerland. 
 
"This year, we commemorate the beginning of the First World War. We mourn the unnecessary death of millions of soldiers. We turn silent in the face of the tremendous suffering of millions of civilians. This great tragedy reminds us of the dramatic consequences when diplomacy fails," he said.
 
Around 40 foreign ministers have gathered in Montreux in an attempt to solve the Syrian crisis which has left around 100,000 people dead and displaced millions since 2011.

Delegates made little head way with the Syrian regime led by President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition trading insults.

But Steinmeier, who returned for his second stint as Foreign Minister in December, said: "We must be clear: the primary responsibility for the disaster in Syria lies with the Syrian government. The Syrian regime has used brutal force against peaceful demonstrators. It has fuelled confessional hatred and extremism."
 
And at the same time he also called on the Syrian government to take a "strong stance" against groups linked to al-Qaida who have gained power in the vacuum of Syria. 
 
With a complex mix of groups fighting on the ground, Steinmeier said ceasefires and the exchange of prisoners should be arranged at a local level.

"The use of heavy weapons and the cynical 'starve or surrender' strategy by the regime need to stop," he added.

"Germany stands ready – as we have throughout the conflict – to help our Syrian friends wherever we can. But the conditions for effective aid can only be provided for by the parties themselves.

"Peace is never won easily. I call on the Syrian delegations to be courageous, ambitious and serious in their quest for peace."

READ MORE: Germany to destroy Syrian chemical weapons

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