Germany calls for dialogue with Russia on Syria

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany and other western European powers need to work with Russia to solve the crisis in Syria. (File photo: AP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday that Berlin and other western European powers need to work with Russia as well as the United States to solve the crisis in Syria as number of refugees reach a new record in Hungary and Munich declares reaching its limit.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met with his Russian, French and Ukrainian counterparts in Berlin on Saturday evening and said afterwards he saw growing support for creating an international contact group to solve the Syrian conflict.

Earlier, a delegation source said Steinmeier and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had a lengthy exchange about Syria on the sidelines of the meeting, with both agreeing to support the U.N. Syrian envoy, Staffan de Mistura’s plan to create a Syrian contact group.

De Mistura has invited warring parties to take part in U.N.-led working groups to address matters including political and constitutional issues, and military and security issues.

Russia had called on Friday for cooperation with the United States to avoid “unintended incidents”, as it stages naval exercises off the coast of Syria, where U.S. officials believe Moscow is building up forces to protect long-term ally President Bashar al-Assad.

Munich at limit of capacity

Munich is at the limit of its capacity to welcome refugees arriving en masse in Germany, police warned Sunday, a day after 13,000 asylum-seekers reached the city.

“Given the numbers from yesterday, it is very clear that we have reached the upper limit of our capacity,” said a police spokesman.

“Our aim today would be to transport as many as possible out of here, to make place for new arrivals,” he said.

The police spokesman had earlier given a figure of 12,200 asylum-seekers arriving on Saturday, but government sources later said the actual number was 13,015.

Munich has become a key arrivals point for refugees travelling to Germany by train through Hungary and Austria.

Last weekend, about 20,000 migrants arrived at the city’s main railway station.

The president of the Upper Bavaria region, Christoph Hillenbrand said he did not know “how we can cope,” according to the Bild am Sonntag tabloid which headlined its article “Munich at the brink of collapse.”

Bavarian public television BR said the city “came very close to a humanitarian disaster,” although authorities managed to limit the numbers of people sleeping on mattresses on the floor to just a few dozens, rather than the hundreds as earlier feared.

Authorities are mulling whether to open up the Olympiahalle -- a stadium used for the 1972 Olympics and which today serves as a concert hall or sports arena -- as a temporary shelter for the refugees.

In a sign that authorities were running out of options, regular passenger trains will be cleared out to transport refugees instead.

One such train linking Munich to Berlin will be affected Sunday, Hillenbrand said, adding that passengers would have to rebook their trains.

Other regular services will be requisitioned on Monday, as the southern German city seek to rapidly transport refugees onwards to other locations across the country in other to free up space for new arrivals.

The army said it had mobilized some 600 soldiers on Saturday to help manage the migrant inflow.

Migrants arrives hit new record

Meanwhile, the number of migrants entering Hungary has hit a new one-day record, police said Sunday, as the country prepares to impose a controversial new law to stop the influx.

A total of 4,330 migrants entered the country on Saturday, outstripping the previous one-day record of 3,601 set on Thursday.

Hungarian authorities said they feared a new surge of arrivals on Sunday.

Almost all the migrants are heading towards Germany via Austria. Austrian police said some 6,700 crossed the Austria-Hungarian border at Nickelsdorf on Saturday before heading north toward Germany. They predicted similar numbers for Sunday.

Hungary is trying to seal its border with Serbia to stop thousands of migrants and refugees traveling up from Greece and the Balkans.

(With Reuters and AFP)

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:46 - GMT 06:46
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