Germany wants trial for Syria militants but warns of difficulties

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said that there is ‘no government in Syria with which we have a sensible relationship.’ (AFP)
Updated 18 February 2019
0

Germany wants trial for Syria militants but warns of difficulties

  • ‘We must be able to ensure that prosecution is possible’
  • The minister noted that there is ‘no government in Syria with which we have a sensible relationship’

BERLIN: Germany vowed Monday to prosecute German Daesh fighters but warned that it would be “extremely difficult” to organize the repatriation of European nationals from Syria, after US President Donald Trump called on allies to take back alleged militants.
Syria’s US-backed Kurdish forces, which are battling Daesh group militants in their last redoubt in eastern Syria, hold hundreds of suspected foreign Daesh fighters and the calls for their reluctant home countries to take them back have grown in urgency.
“We must be able to ensure that prosecution is possible,” Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told Bild daily.
Underlining the difficulties however of putting the ex-fighters on trial, the minister noted that there is “no government in Syria with which we have a sensible relationship.”
President Bashar “Assad cannot be our counterpart, the Syrian-democratic forces are not a unity government,” she added, stressing that proof and witness statements needed to be secured in Syria if the militants are to be put on trial.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said separately that a return could only be possible if “we can guarantee that these people can be immediately sent here to appear in court and that they will be detained.”
For this, “we need judicial information, and this is not yet the case,” Maas told ARD television late Sunday. Under such conditions a repatriation would be “extremely difficult to achieve.”
Berlin wants to “consult with France and Britain ... over how to proceed,” he said.
The subject is to be raised on Monday at a meeting of European foreign ministers called to discuss among other issues “the situation in Syria, in particular the recent developments on the ground,” according to an agenda for the talks.
Trump on Sunday called on his European allies to take back alleged militants captured in Syria.
Daesh imposed a self-declared caliphate across parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq from 2014, but has since lost all of it except a tiny patch of less than half a square kilometer near the Iraqi border.
After years of fighting Daesh, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) hold hundreds of foreigners accused of fighting for the group, as well as their wives and children.
Syria’s Kurds have repeatedly called for their countries of origin to take them back, but these nations have been reluctant.
“The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 Daesh fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial,” Trump said in a tweet.
After initial reluctance, Paris appears ready to consider the return of its nationals.
In Belgium, Justice Minister Koen Geens called for a “European solution” on Sunday, calling for “calm reflection and looking at what would be the least security risks.”


Lebanese cabinet approves draft state budget

Updated 36 min 59 sec ago
0

Lebanese cabinet approves draft state budget

  • Budget is seen as a critical test of the government's determination to make changes
  • Could help unlock some $11 billion in financing

BEIRUT: The Lebanese cabinet approved the draft state budget on Friday and a session to formally seal it will be held at the presidential palace, government ministers said.
"All the clauses and articles have been agreed on," Finance Minister Ali Hassan said after a cabinet meeting in an interview with broadcaster NBN.
The information minister said in a news conference the draft budget cut the deficit to 7.5% of GDP from 11.5% in 2018. "Now, praise God, we are done. The budget is complete," Information Minister Jamal Jarrah said.
The budget is seen as a critical test of the government's determination to make changes that have been put off for years by a state riddled with corruption and waste. Lebanon has one of the heaviest public debt burdens in the world.
The budget could help unlock some $11 billion in financing pledged at a Paris donors' conference last year for infrastructure investment, if it wins the approval of donors along with other reforms.