Monday 19 March 2018

Germany approves military support for anti-Islamic State mission

German Chancellor Angela Merkel casts her vote at the German Federal Parliament in Berlin (AP)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel casts her vote at the German Federal Parliament in Berlin (AP)

The German parliament has approved a broad non-combat mission to aid the coalition fight against Islamic State, including reconnaissance jets and a frigate.

The 134 million euro (£96 million) mission comes after a call from France for support following last month's attacks in Paris.

Two German Tornado reconnaissance planes will be sent to Turkey's Incirlik base as early as next week as part of a plan crafted by Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet earlier this week. The frigate is already en route to join French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.

"The goal... is to fight and contain IS, and destroy their safe havens and their ability to lead worldwide terror operations," defence minister Ursula von der Leyen told reporters in Berlin before heading to Ankara for talks with her Turkish counterpart over logistics and other details.

She also met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to talk about the stationing of German troops there and other aspects of the deployment, the Defence Ministry said.

The mission comes after Ms Merkel agreed to honour a request from France in the wake of the attacks in Paris to provide support for its operations against IS in Syria.

Parliament voted 445 in support of the plan and 146 against with seven abstentions.

In total, Germany plans to send up to six Tornado reconnaissance planes, a tanker aircraft and a frigate to help protect the French aircraft carrier, but will not actively engage in combat.

A maximum contingent of 1,200 soldiers was also approved, who will serve as support troops in Turkey and elsewhere, including at headquarters operations in Qatar and Kuwait.

French President Francois Hollande has visited the Charles de Gaulle, France's only aircraft carrier, which was dispatched to the region a week before the November 13 attacks that killed 130 in Paris.

It has been launching raids against IS bases as part of the US-led coalition's strikes against the group.

The French carrier had previously been deployed in the Persian Gulf from February to April, conducting between 15 and 20 flights per day, according to the French military.

British jets flew their first missions as part of the coalition's efforts on Thursday, striking oil fields in eastern Syria that help finance IS.

Meanwhile, the Dutch government is weighing whether to broaden its involvement in the international campaign against IS.

The Netherlands has F-16 jets taking part in air strikes against IS targets in Iraq, but defence minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert says France and the US have asked if the Dutch can do more.

Foreign minister Bert Koenders said the government "will look at whether we can make an effective contribution", but added: "I don't want to restrict the debate to only bombing over Syria."

Mr Koenders said IS cannot be fought with bombs alone - "you also have to look at cutting off oil revenues, finances".

Ms Hennis-Plasschaert said the ruling two-party Dutch coalition will consider the question in "the coming days, weeks. I don't know how much time we need".

Meanwhile, Syrian government warplanes carried out air strikes on two suburbs of the capital Damascus, killing at least 22 people, activists said.

The Local Co-ordination Committees said the air strikes targeted the suburbs of Kfar Batna and Jisreen. The activist group said a market and residential areas were hit.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported on the strikes, saying 35 people were killed, including six children.

Rebel-held suburbs of Damascus have been subjected to intense air strikes over the past few weeks that killed hundreds.

Press Association

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