German vice-chancellor backs down on Syria peace rally plan

Sigmar Gabriel. [Shutterstock]

German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has backed down on his plans to call for peace demonstrations in front of the Russian and American embassies in Berlin. EURACTIV’s partner Der Tagesspiegel reports.

The SPD chairman was warned by his own party on Monday (26 September) to tread carefully on the issue and not equate Russia with the US. Gabriel will still back demonstrations calling for peace in Syria, but the embassies are no longer named as the venue.

The SPD’s political opponents, the CDU, CSU and Greens previously urged Gabriel to put Russia’s responsibility for war crimes into perspective. Foreign Affairs spokesperson Jürgen Hardt (CDU) criticised Gabriel for “turning the facts on their head”. He added that the vice-chancellor is “avoiding naming the real culprit”.

Hardt recently said that the CDU “cannot understand the remarks made by minister Gabriel on the sanctions against Russia being phased out”, in reference to the EU’s stance against Moscow and its involvement in eastern Ukraine.

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Greens foreign affairs spokesperson Omid Nouripour also criticised Gabriel for “acting as if both powers are equally responsible for the barbarism in Syria” and added that he is “playing into the Russian’s hands”.

However, Die Linke welcomed Gabriel’s manoeuvring and their foreign policy spokesperson, Wolfgang Gehrcke said that “I will be there and I’ll bring a lot of friends with me.” He added that he would be “delighted” if Gabriel would be attendance with as many people as possible as well.

Gabriel first presented his plan to his party last week, where, according to participants, the vice-chancellor seemed incensed that the public had not yet mobilised itself against the atrocities seen in Syria.

He also apparently indicated his understanding of the anti-CETA protests that have been held, but questioned why there has not been similar “outcry” against the war in Syria.

There has been little reaction in Germany when it comes to opposing the war crimes and horrors in Syria as yet. But on 8 October, a demonstration has been organised nationwide, centring on Berlin.

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However, there is no mention of Russian involvement or crimes committed in Syria. Instead, it is more about “cooperation instead of NATO confrontation” and “disarmament instead of social cuts”.

The organisers also said that “we do not accept that war is becoming increasingly common and that Germany has an increased presence in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Mali (…) The USA, NATO member states and their allies are almost always involved, as is the Bundesrepublik, either directly or indirectly.”

Russia is not mentioned in the text once as an independent actor in global conflict. A spokesperson for the initiative responded to Der Tagesspiegel‘s questioning on the issue, but refused to be quoted.


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