Germany ‘considering possible military role in Syria’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks on during a leadership meeting of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party on September 10, 2018 in Berlin. (AFP)
Updated 11 September 2018

Germany ‘considering possible military role in Syria’

  • The German air force already provides refueling support and carries out reconnaissance missions using four Tornado fighter jets from a base in Jordan as part of the US-led coalition fighting Daesh in Iraq and Syria
  • The SPD will not agree — either in Parliament or in the government — to the participation of Germany in the war in Syria

BERLIN: The German government said on Monday it was in talks with its allies about a possible military deployment in Syria, prompting a sharp rebuke from the Social Democrats (SPD) and setting up a fresh conflict in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s loveless coalition.
Overseas military action remains a sensitive and deeply unpopular topic in Germany.
Participation in any airstrikes in Syria would also put Germany on a collision course with Russia, the main backer of Bashar Assad.
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Germany had discussed with the US and European allies its possible military involvement if Assad’s forces used chemical weapons against the last major rebel stronghold in Idlib, now under heavy Syrian and Russian bombardment.
“There has not been a situation where a decision has had to be made,” Seibert said, adding that any decision would first have to be approved by Parliament.
Earlier, Bild newspaper had reported that Germany’s Defense Ministry was examining possible options for joining US, British and French forces in any future military action if Damascus again used chemical weapons.
It said Parliament would only be notified of any military action after the fact if speedy action were required.

SPD opposition
Andrea Nahles, leader of the SPD — junior partner in Merkel’s coalition — ruled out backing any German involvement.
“The SPD will not agree — either in Parliament or in the government — to the participation of Germany in the war in Syria,” Nahles said in a statement, adding the party backed diplomatic efforts to avert a humanitarian crisis.
Sources familiar with the issue, confirming the Bild report, said German and US officials had discussed the possibility of German fighter jets helping with battle damage assessments or dropping bombs for the first time since the war in ex-Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
The German air force already provides refueling support and carries out reconnaissance missions using four Tornado fighter jets from a base in Jordan as part of the US-led coalition fighting Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
Bild said a decision on whether to join any strikes would be made by Merkel, who ruled out joining April 2018 air strikes against Syria by US, French and British forces after a previous use of chemical weapons.
In a joint statement on Monday, the German foreign and defense ministries urged restraint in Syria.
“The goal is that the conflict parties ... avoid escalating an already terrible situation ... That is particularly true for the use of banned chemical weapons which the Assad government has already used in the past,” it said.


Russian envoy seeks to break ‘suffocating’ Beirut deadlock

Updated 8 min 28 sec ago

Russian envoy seeks to break ‘suffocating’ Beirut deadlock

  • Moscow move comes after Iran-backed factions block Macron reforms

BEIRUT: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov will visit Lebanon to discuss support for the crisis-hit country following the failure of French efforts to form an independent Lebanese government.

Bogdanov, the Russian president’s special envoy for the Middle East and North Africa, told Lebanese Democratic Party (LDP) leader Talal Arslan on Tuesday that “efforts and dialogue are needed to reach a solution that gets Lebanon out of the suffocating crisis it is going through.” 

In a meeting in Moscow on Monday, Bogdanov told Lebanese Ambassador Shawki Bou Nassar that he will visit Beirut in late October for talks with senior officials. 

It will be the first visit by a Russian official since the Beirut port blast on Aug. 4 devastated large areas of the capital and plunged the country into political turmoil.

The Russian move follows the failure of French President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to form an independent Lebanese government and introduce reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help the country avoid a financial and economic meltdown.

Last Sunday, Macron gave Lebanese officials a six-week deadline to form a new government, accusing Lebanese leaders of betraying their pledges to him during a high-profile visit to Beirut in early September.

The accusations were directed at the Iran-backed Hezbollah and Amal Movement factions over obstruction of Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib’s plans for a new government.

Both factions were widely criticized in the wake of Adib’s resignation on Saturday and accused of sabotaging the French initiative.

On Monday, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said that Tehran rejected claims of “external interference in Lebanon’s affairs.”

Amal Movement said that Macron’s accusations, as well as attempts to blame Amal Movement and Hezbollah, “are far from the facts and the realities of discussions with the prime Minister-designate.”

The political faction said that its leader, Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, “is at the forefront of those keen to preserve Lebanon’s stability and the unity of its people.”

Berri’s political aide, former minister Ali Hassan Khalil, has been been hit by US sanctions on a string of charges, including corruption.

Zafer Nasser, secretary-general of the Progressive Socialist Party, told Arab News that the objectives of Bogdanov’s visit remain unclear and Lebanon must continue to support Macron’s efforts.

“The French initiative is our last chance and we must hold on to it,” he said.

With Lebanon’s central bank expected to begin reducing subsidies for the import of hydrocarbons in coming weeks, gas stations around the country experienced shortages on Tuesday due to delays in imports.

According to a representative of the Gas Station Owners Syndicate, George Brax, a partial reduction of subsidies will raise the price of a can of gasoline to between 37,000 and 40,000 Lebanese pounds, while with a total reduction, it will reach between 65,000 and 70,000 Lebanese pounds.

“If the dollar exchange rate continues to rise, the price of a can of gasoline may reach 85,000 Lebanese pounds,” he said.