Sunday

29th Mar 2020

Germany not keen to join France and UK on Syria strike

  • SA-17s: The former French air chief said Nato pilots would be at risk (Photo: Wikipedia)

Germany has indicated it will not take part in any military strike on Syria, as France and the UK signal readiness to join a US-led intervention.

Philipp Missfelder, the foreign affairs spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party, said in the Leipziger Volkszeitung daily on Tuesday (27 August) that: "The [German] army has, through its current international operations, already reached the breaking point."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

He added that a Western strike could create a "spiral of escalating violence" by drawing Iran and the Lebanese militant group, Hezbollah, deeper into the conflict.

He also said military action without a UN mandate is "hard to imagine."

Despite Missfelder's statement, Merkel in recent days joined British and French leaders in giving credence to reports the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons to kill hundreds of people on the outskirts of Damascus.

A statement by British Prime Minister David Cameron's office noted that Cameron and Merkel spoke by phone on Sunday.

"They agreed that this was a very grave incident and that there was little doubt that it had been carried out by the regime," it said.

"They agreed that such an attack demanded a firm response from the international community," it added.

France on Monday also used strong words.

"The only option that I am ruling out is to do nothing," French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said on Europe 1 radio.

The toughest language came from Washington on Monday evening, however.

US secretary of state John Kerry told media in the US capital: "The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders, by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity."

He added: "There must be accountability for those who would use the world's most heinous weapons against the world's most vulnerable people."

The US also cancelled a meeting with Russia, due in The Hague on Wednesday, designed to re-launch peace talks between Syrian rebels and Syrian authorities.

If the US and some EU countries do strike Syria's chemical weapons depots, elite brigades or air force, the move risks further alienating Moscow.

Cameron's office said he also spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, but "the Russian President said Moscow had no evidence as to whether such an attack had taken place or who was responsible."

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday spelled out his country's point of view.

“We are especially concerned to hear talk coming from London and Paris suggesting that Nato could take the lead in bombing in Syria without Security Council approval. This is a very slippery slope," he told Russian press.

"Any military action without [UN] Security Council approval would be a crude violation of international law," he noted.

Asked what Russia would do if a Nato-linked coalition does strike its Middle East ally, Lavrov added that Moscow is "not planning to go to war with anyone," however.

A UN chemical weapons inspection team arrived on the site of the alleged attack on Monday, with any Western action unlikely to come before it files its report.

A former French airforce chief, Jean Rannou, told EUobserver in a previous interview a military strike would most likely be launched from the UK's military base in Cyprus.

He noted there is a risk that Syria's Russian-made SA-17 missiles could shoot down a handful of Nato planes.

But he added: "I don't see any purely military problems. Syria has no defence against Western systems."

Some defence analysts have also voiced concerns about asymmetric threats.

EU countries have troops in UN peacekeeping missions in Lebanon and Syria, which could become targets.

Rainer Wendt, the head of Germany's police trade union, also told press on Monday that Syria could react with terrorist attacks in EU countries, including Germany, whether or not it takes part in an assault.

UN ignores EU calls for Syria inspections

The UN Security Council on Wednesday failed to say inspectors should get access to investigate claims of a mass-scale chemical attack in Syria.

EU arms to Syria: what, how and if

Britain and France are since Saturday free to ship arms to Syrian rebels. But many analysts think the idea is "a bluff."

News in Brief

  1. UK health minister tests positive for coronavirus
  2. Orban: coronavirus exposes EU 'weaknesses'
  3. Court orders Netherlands to pay colonial victims
  4. Belgian cat 'infected by coronavirus'
  5. UK PM Johnson tests positive for coronavirus
  6. EU agrees Libya naval mission after Greek solution
  7. US to upgrade its nuclear bombs in Europe
  8. US surpasses China and Italy with 82,404 corona cases

Opinion

Trump's 'plan' for Israel will go against EU values

As someone who has been personally targeted by Benjamin Netanyahu's incitement against Arabs and Palestinians, Christians, Muslims and Druze, I still believe that peace is possible. But Donald Trump's 'plan' will be a gift to Netanyahu's campaign.

China spy suspect worked for EU for 30 years

The former EU ambassador suspected by German prosecutors of spying for China was Gerhard Sabathil, according to EU officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Latest News

  1. EU doctors: bring refugees on Greek islands to safety
  2. Russia's top coronavirus 'fake news' stories
  3. WHO warning on lockdown mental health
  4. Virus: Frontex tells officers to keep guarding Greek borders
  5. EU heads struggle to find joint virus response
  6. Poland's sham presidential election in a pandemic
  7. Von der Leyen warns 'end selfishness' in virus crisis
  8. Chinese ambassador to EU: put trust before politics

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us