October 3, 2018 / 3:52 PM / 2 months ago

Germany, U.S. agree need to prevent chemical weapons attacks in Syria - Maas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Germany and the United States agree on the need to do everything possible to prevent the use of chemical weapons in Syria, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Wednesday after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (L) at the State Department in Washington, U.S., October 3, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Maas said the meeting included intense discussions about the situation in Syria, with both sides keen to increase the pressure for a political solution, and wanted to work start as soon as possible on rewriting the Syrian constitution.

Germany also pledged to more strongly support Washington’s efforts in Syria, including through humanitarian aid, and in ensuring that chemical weapons were not used there, Maas told reporters after the meeting.

“We discussed how we can more strongly support the United States in their engagement in Syria. We now will concretise and operationalise that,” he said.

He said Pompeo understood the political debate in Germany about possible participation in any U.S.-led reliatory military strike in the event of a chemical weapons attack, and that parliament was unlikely to approve such a move.

“There are different ways to participate to help ensure that chemical weapons are not used there and that none are even present,” Maas said, citing Germany’s expertise in disposing of such weapons.

A U.S. diplomat last week told Reuters that Washington will pursue “a strategy of isolation,” including sanctions, with its allies if President Bashar al-Assad holds up a political process aimed at ending Syria’s seven-year war.

Nine rounds of U.N.-led peace talks, most of them in Geneva, have failed to bring the warring sides together to end the conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven millions from their homes.

Maas said Germany and the United States agreed on the need to curb Iran’s activities in the region and its ballistic missile programme, but remained at odds about Washington’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement.

“We want to preserve the nuclear agreement with Iran because ... everything else will not lead to improvement, and the situation could possibly get worse and escalate,” Maas said. “No one can have an interest in that.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal

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