Saturday

16th Feb 2019

Germany to send 1,200 military to Middle East

  • If Parliament approves the plan, four to six Tornado reconnaissance planes will be deployed. (Photo: Bundeswehr)

France and Germany have opened the door to a cooperation with the Syrian army in the fight against Islamic State (IS), while Germany is to send 1,200 military in the Middle East in a move away from its usual non-intervention stance.

"There will be no future with [Syrian leader] Assad, this is clear," German defense minister Ursula Ursula von der Leyen said on German ZDF television on Sunday (29 November). "But there as parts of the Syrian troops that we can take."

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"Maybe it is right to talk about the Syrian troops, when it is clear, once the transitional phase has begun, what is happening with Assad," she added. "That must be reevaluated."

Von der Leyen spoke two days after French foreign affairs minister Laurent Fabius said on Friday that "regime forces" could be used against IS.

"There must be two measures: bombings ... and ground troops who cannot be ours, but who should be of the Free Syrian Army [opposed to Assad], Sunni Arab forces, and why not regime forces too," ho told French RTL radio.

Air support

The French presidency later specified that cooperating with "regime forces" would only be possible once an "inclusive" government of national unity has been put in place in Syria. But it is the first time the French diplomacy chief has floated the idea.

After the 13 November Paris attacks, France has stepped up its military operations in Syria against IS bases, and president Francois Hollande has been trying to build an anti-IS international coalition with the US, Russia and the EU countries willing to help.

Over the weekend, Germany announced it would send 1,200 men in the Middle East by the end of the year.

A German frigate will be sent to the eastern Mediterranean, to support France's Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier.

Four to six Tornado reconnaissance planes and refuelling aircraft will also be deployed and eill be stationed in Jordan and Turkey, the German army chief of staff said on Sunday.

He also said the German airforce will not directly participate in strikes against IS.

Foreign military involvements are often controversial in Germany and a vote by the Parliament will be necessary to approve the deployment.

'Special purpose'

Earlier last week, Germany already said it would send up to 650 more soldiers to Mali to help the French and send more experts in northern Iraq to train Kurdish peshmerga fighters.

In the popular Bild tabloid on Monday, Von der Leyen details explained her policy to the public in a "Six-point plan against IS".

She called for a "special purpose" alliance to defeat the jihadist organisation.

"Not everyone in the alliance against IS must do everything but all must be aiming at the same goal," she writes.

Participating countries must act "to weaken IS, limit its freedom for maneuver, destroy its training camps, win back city by city, destroy its oil revenue and break the aura of invincibility," she wrote.

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