ASSISI, Italy - Europe needs to do more to end the war in Syria, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday as she received a peace award from Franciscan monks in the birthplace of St. Francis.
Merkel was given the Franciscan order's "Lamp of Peace," joining previous recipients such as former Polish president Lech Walesa, the Dalai Lama, the late Israeli president Shimon Peres and Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos.
In an acceptance speech in the basilica, its walls lined with frescoes by the 13th century master Giotto, Merkel called Syria "one of the biggest humanitarian tragedies of our time" and said politicians had to work harder to end it. "This conflict has become a conflict of regional interests, a conflict of religions … and that's why today's award reminds me and many other European leaders that we should be more involved in solving this conflict," she said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based war monitor, says more than half a million people have been killed in the Syrian war since it erupted seven years ago. About 85 percent of the dead were civilians killed by the forces of the Syrian government and its allies, according to the Observatory.
Speaking of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Merkel said "Those who thought that the end of the Cold War would bring peace to Europe were wrong."