German mission to Syria gets go-ahead from MPs
AFP/DPA/The Local · 4 Dec 2015, 12:17
Published: 04 Dec 2015 11:38 GMT+01:00
Updated: 04 Dec 2015 12:17 GMT+01:00
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With the backing of both the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU)/Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) groups, there was almost no chance of the resolution failing to pass.
In the end, 445 MPs voted in favour of the military deployment against terror group Isis, with 146 against and seven abstentions.
The vote authorises the deployment of Tornado reconnaissance jets, an air refuelling tanker, a frigate and up to 1,200 troops.
CDU MP and head of the Foreign Affairs Committee Norbert Röttgen told fellow lawmakers that Europe must press on with diplomatic efforts in the Middle East - but that the military action was vital to achieving peace in the region.
But Opposition MPs from the Green party and Linke (Left Party) arguing against sending troops to Syria at all.
"I have the impression that your mandate [for military action] is doing something for the sake of doing something," Green party leader Anton Hofreiter told ministers.
He also criticized the weak detail of the motion, pointing out that no one had explained whether France or the USA was leading the mission.
Linke leader Sahra Wagenknecht argued that "you won't fight Isis this way, you'll only strengthen them".
Outside the parliament chamber, Army Union chairman André Wüstner warned that Germany might be drawn into sending ground troops to Syria one day.
"I don't rule anything out. A few weeks ago the government also ruled out actively taking part in the war against Isis with aircraft, and we know where we are today," he told broadcaster Bayerische Rundfunk.
German reconnaissance aircraft are expected to begin flights over Syria on Monday following the vote.
Deployment 'legal under international law'
Germany's Justice Minister Heiko Maas said the case for deployment was watertight legally.
"The Germans can be certain that the deployment to Syria neither violates international law nor the constitution," he told the Tagesspiegel daily on Friday.
"We must stop this terrorist gang of murderers. That will not be achieved with military action alone, but neither would it be achieved without," he said.
The package approved by parliament includes six Tornado aircraft which have no offensive fighter capability and are specialised in air-to-ground reconnaissance.
A German frigate will be deployed to protect the Charles de Gaulle, from which French fighter jets are carrying out bombing runs, and the tanker aircraft could refuel them mid-air to extend their range.
Separately, Germany has also pledged to send 650 soldiers to Mali to provide some relief to French forces battling jihadists in the west African nation.
The parliamentary vote comes three weeks after jihadists killed 130 people in a series of attacks in Paris, prompting France to invoke a clause requiring EU states to provide military assistance to wipe out the IS group in Iraq and Syria.
Britain joined the US-led bombing campaign over Syria on Thursday, striking an IS-held oil field as the momentum to take action against the jihadist group increases.
After repeatedly ruling out the use of "boots on the ground", US President Barack Obama also agreed to send as many as 100 special forces to Iraq, with a mandate to carry out raids inside Syria.
A broad coalition of 60 countries has been battling the IS since August 2014, although involvement in Syria has been more limited with some Western nations wary of how military action could actually end up serving President Bashar al-Assad's regime, which they view as no longer legitimate.
But reticence seemed to have melted away following the Paris attacks, and in the Netherlands, which has been bombarding the IS in Iraq, the government too is coming under pressure to widen the campaign to Syria.
Even in Germany, where there has traditionally been reluctance to engage in military missions abroad, the government's decision to take direct action in Syria has been largely met with support.