Berlin will send 1,200 troops to fight Isil in Syria
Germany may broaden its military mission against Isil beyond Syria as Chancellor Angela Merkel's government prepares to step up its security commitments in the Middle East.
Ms Merkel's cabinet yesterday backed the deployment, which includes as many as 1,200 troops along with Tornado reconnaissance planes, refuelling aircraft and a frigate in support of France in the fight against terrorism, said Steffen Seibert, the chancellor's chief spokesman. More troops can be sent in an emergency, according to the draft mandate seen by reporters.
The proposal requires a vote by the lower house of parliament in Berlin, probably to be held on Friday.
The German decision was mirrored in the UK, where British Prime Minister David Cameron called a House of Commons vote for today on extending British airstrikes against Isil from Iraq to Syria.
"We view this as an urgent matter and would like parliament to give it swift consideration," Mr Seibert said in Berlin after the cabinet met.
Prompted by terrorist acts including the November 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, the German draft law says UN Security Council resolutions, the need to support France and Iraq and "the international alliance" against Isil justify military action under international law.
"German forces will be deployed primarily in and over the operational territory of the IS (Isil) terror organisation in Syria as well as the territory of states where the government has given its consent, as well as the eastern Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, Red Sea and adjacent seas," according to the draft.
The first German aircraft could be sent to Turkey's Incirlik Air Base next week if parliament approves the mission by Friday, Defence Ministry spokesman Jens Flosdorff said.
Tornado reconnaissance flights could probably start only in January because some equipment needs to be transferred from a deployment in Spain, he said.
The mission is set to cost €134m and last until the end of 2016, though parliament can extend it.
"This will be a long struggle," requiring both military and diplomatic efforts," Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said in an interview on N24 television yesterday.