BERLIN: Berlin said on Monday (July 8) it had no plans to send ground troops to Syria, refusing a US request for Germany to ramp up its military involvement in the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants.
“When I say that the government intends to continue with its ongoing measures in the framework of the anti-IS coalition, then that means no ground troops,” said German government spokesman Steffen Seibert, using an alternative acronym for ISIS.
US special representative on Syria James Jeffrey told German media including the Die Welt newspaper on Sunday that Washington wants Berlin to put boots on the ground in northern Syria.
Mr Jeffrey, who was visiting Berlin for Syria talks, added that he expects an answer this month.
The mandate for Germany’s participation in Syria runs out on Oct 31, meaning that Parliament would be called on to decide what to do beyond that date.
Mr Seibert noted that Germany has “for years been making a significant and internationally acknowledged contribution” to fighting the ISIS militants.
Berlin is now in talks with the US on “how the engagement should develop further”, he added.
Washington has two goals in north-eastern Syria: to support the US-backed Kurdish forces that expelled ISIS from northern Syria because they are increasingly threatened by Turkey, and to prevent a potential ISIS resurgence in the war-torn country.
The US is hoping Europe will help, pressuring Britain, France and now Germany, which has so far deployed surveillance aircraft and other non-combat military support in Syria.
However, Germany’s history makes military spending and foreign adventures controversial.
Berlin sent soldiers to fight abroad for the first time since World War II in 1994, and much of the political spectrum and the public remains suspicious of such deployments.
Besides Chancellor Angela Merkel’s junior coalition partner the SPD, the ecologist Greens, liberal Free Democrats and Left party have all urged the veteran leader to turn down the US request for troops.