Syria & refugee crisis top agenda at Munich Security Сonference

Policemen walk in front of the Bayerischer Hof hotel, the location for the 52nd Munich Security Conference (MSC), in Munich, southern Germany, on February 11, 2016. © Thomas Kienzle
The refugee crisis, the war in Syria, and the ability of the EU to ensure security order will be the key topics for discussion at the 52nd Munich Security Conference (MSC), which will be attended by about 600 senior global figures.

On Thursday, decision-makers from around the world started gathering for the MSC, which will be held from February 12 to 14 in Munich.

Top politicians are expected to examine the international response to the current refugee crisis engulfing Europe and a number of Middle Eastern and African countries.

One of the main topics on the table for discussion will be the war in Syria, which has been ongoing since 2011.

"Today's conflicts and crises are more dangerous and severe than anything we have seen since the end of the Cold War," MSC Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger stressed in the run-up to the conference.

A series of multilateral and bilateral meetings are expected to take place on the sidelines of the conference.

These include a meeting by members of the International Syria Support Group on Thursday, which ran longer than expected, beginning at 7 pm local time and running over four hours. The last Syria Support Group meeting was held in Vienna on November 14.

A press conference is expected after the meeting, with the participation of Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and UN Special Envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura, TASS reported.

In the beginning of February, the United Nations temporarily suspended peace talks aimed at resolving Syria’s five-year civil war. The UN said that the process was to be resumed on February 25 and called on the sides involved to do more to acheive progress.

“I have concluded, frankly, that after the first week of preparatory talks, there is more work to be done, not only by us but by the stakeholders,” the UN mediator, Staffan de Mistura, said after meeting with the opposition delegation at a Geneva hotel.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with his US counterpart John Kerry on Thursday to discuss a ceasefire agreement in Syria. “We made proposals on implementing a ceasefire, quite specific ones,” TASS cited Lavrov as saying before the meeting. “We are waiting for a US response before putting them before the International Syria Support Group.”

Earlier, AP and Reuters cited anonymous US officials who claimed that Russia has suggested a March 1 ceasefire in Syria. There has been no official confirmation of any proposed dates, however.

The future of the European security order is expected to be on the agenda of the conference, along with stability in Sub-Saharan Africa and arms control in cyber space.

In the light of the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and the current spread of the Zika virus, for the first time the conference will include a session on the dangers of epidemics for global stability and security.

A host of senior officials are attending the conference, including Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his US counterpart John Kerry, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini, and the foreign ministers of Iran and Saudi Arabia, Mohammad Javad Zarif and Adel Al-Jubeir.