Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 13 November 2019

Germany proposes security zone in northern Syria to fight ISIS

Defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said it should include Russia and Turkey

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel. AFP
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel. AFP

An internationally managed security zone should be set up in northern Syria to “resume” the fight against terrorism and support displaced civilians, Germany’s defence minister said on Tuesday.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who said she had informed Chancellor Angela Merkel of her ideas, argued the situation in Syria required greater European action.

Turkey earlier this month launched a military operation in northern Syria after the withdrawal of US troops, vowing to remove Kurdish forces it sees as terrorists from the Syrian border region.

But the European Union fears the move could empower ISIS. Many of the terror group's members are detained in overcrowded local jails in north-east Syria.

"This security zone would seek to resume the fight against terror and against [ISIS] which has currently come to a standstill," Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

"It would also ensure that we stabilise the region so that rebuilding civilian life is once again possible, and so that those who have fled can also return voluntarily.

"Europe cannot simply be an onlooker. We also have to come up with our own recommendations and initiate discussions."

She said the security zone would need co-operation from Turkey, which backs some rebel groups in northern Syria, and Russia, a key supporter of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

"The alternative to that would be that the Europeans and Nato simply watch as talks between Turkey and Russia continue," the defence minister said.

"Russia is one of the most important actors in Syria," she said. "Regardless of whether one likes that or not, it is a fact that we have to deal with."

Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer is the leader of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany party and is Ms Merkel's preferred successor to lead the country when she steps down.

The proposal won the support of party ally Norbert Roettgen, head of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee, who said the proposal was “brave and worthy of support”.

“A protective zone without German participation would be difficult internationally,” he tweeted.

But the move could raise tension with Ms Merkel’s coalition partner the Social Democrats who do not favour military action in Syria.

A five-day US-brokered pause in Turkey’s military operation against the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria is due to expire on Tuesday evening.

German foreign minister Heiko Maas previously described Turkey’s move into northern Syria as an “invasion” that violated international law.

Updated: October 22, 2019 08:57 PM

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