The seven-man team is comprised of four Bundestag MPs as well as state parliamentarians from the populous, western state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). Other than Damascus, the group plans on visiting Homs and Aleppo during their trip — all areas which are mostly controlled by the Assad government.
Helmut Seifen, the deputy leader of the AfD’s parliamentary party in the NRW state parliament, told DW the MPs taking part in the trip hope to determine “whether there is war everywhere, or if there are safe areas as well.”
He emphasized that it was a “private” trip that did not have a direct connection to the AfD’s refugee repatriation proposal, but said the AfD expects to receive a report after the group returns on Friday. Seifen said MPs would likely only travel to “safe” areas.
“The goal of the trip is to thoroughly inquire on site about the humanitarian situation and reconstruction work in areas which have been liberated from terrorists,” the party said in a statement cited by German news magazine Der Spiegel. The statement added that German media couldn’t be trusted in its coverage of the conflict.
“We will visit educational institutions and talk to representatives of many faith communities,” Christian Blex, an AfD state parliamentarian from NRW, told right-wing site Compact Online before the trip. “We will also talk to government officials.”
Blex was one of several AfD politicians who traveled to the Russia-annexed Crimea last month to speak out against Western sanctions. The group traveled through Moscow, a move seen as illegal by the Ukrainian government. The trip was criticized by both Kyiv and Berlin.
Talks with Assad ally
On Monday, the group held a two hour-long meeting with Syrian Grand Mufti Ahmad Hassoun, who reportedly urged Syrian refugees to return home.
Blex mistakenly wrote on Twitter that Hassoun had “emphasized how important the separation of religion and church is.” It was later clarified that Hassoun had urged for “the separation of religion and state.”