Vienna, 13 November 2012 Press release

Lopatka: "Rights of minorities are essential for a new democratic Syria"

Archbishop of Aleppo concerned about precarious situation of Christians – Austria is planning a further increase of its humanitarian aid

Vienna, 13 November 2012 - "The attempt to achieve a military solution to the Syrian crisis is the wrong approach and doomed to fail", State Secretary Reinhold Lopatka and the Metropolitan of the Syrian-Orthodox church of Aleppo, Archbishop Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, said after their meeting where they had discussed the situation in Syria.

The Archbishop is deeply concerned about the continued fighting in Aleppo which is increasingly resembling a dead city. The one million Christians in Syria are threatened with the same fate as in Iraq, displacement to other countries. "We must not allow the scenario of Iraq to repeat itself, where minorities, including Christians, had to flee from their homeland. The ethnic and religious diversity of Syria needs to be preserved and the rights of all groups of society must be ensured in a new constitution", Lopatka said.

"Both the Syrian regime and the opposition must finally assume responsibility, end the pointless bloodshed and enter into a real political dialogue for a peaceful transition to a democratic Syria. The establishment of a "National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces" in Doha is a first step towards unifying the fractured opposition. An armistice is the most essential prerequisite for mitigating the crisis, so that the civil society can be supplied with the most urgently required necessities for life and that negotiations can begin as soon as possible", the State Secretary continued. The Archbishop warned that the humanitarian situation would aggravate further with the start of the winter.

"Given that the distress of the Syrian people is becoming worse every day and with a view to the increase in the number of refugees, the Austrian Government is planning to step up its humanitarian aid for Syria", Lopatka concluded.

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