German minister proposes internationally controlled security zone in Syria

Germany’s defence minister has suggested creating a security zone in northern Syria to protect displaced civilians and ensure the fight continues against Islamic State militia, news wires reported. It is the first time Berlin has proposed a military mission in the Middle East, Reuters noted. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Angela Merkel’s preferred successor as chancellor, said she would discuss the initiative with NATO partners this week and did not rule out sending German soldiers to Syria, saying that would be a matter for parliament.

As Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan meet in Sochi for talks on the conflict in Syria, she made clear her initiative would need buy-in from those countries. “We cannot just stand by and watch and not doing anything,” Kramp-Karrenbauer, leader of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), told Germany’s ZDF television late on Monday. “My suggestion is that we set up an internationally controlled security zone involving Turkey and Russia,” she told Deutsche Welle broadcaster. The move should stabilize the region and allow civilians to rebuild and refugees to return on a voluntary basis, she said.

A five-day US-brokered pause in Turkey’s military operation against the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria is due to expire at 1900 GMT on Tuesday. NATO-member Turkey wants all Kurdish YPG forces to leave a “safe zone” it wants to establish along a section of its border with Syria. Ankara views the YPG as terrorists with links to Kurdish insurgents operating in southeast Turkey.

Kramp-Karrenbauer’s suggestion is something of a departure for Germany which has in the last two decades gradually stepped up its involvement in foreign missions but is still a reluctant partner, especially in the Middle East, due to the legacy of World War Two. German defence minister, seeking to boost her credentials as the CDU’s candidate for chancellor in a 2021 election said she had liaised closely with Merkel on the idea. The proposal could raise tension within Merkel’s coalition as the co-governing Social Democrats (SPD) are sceptical about any direct military involvement in Syria.

 

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