German minister can’t rule out longer-term military role in Middle East
Von der Leyen spoke during a visit to the Azraq air base in Jordan where some 300 German troops support a refuelling plane and four Tornado warplanes that fly reconnaissance missions as part of US led-coalition operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Asked if Germany needed a strategic base in the Middle East, von der Leyen said, “First we must bring this deployment to a successful end. I don’t want to rule the idea out, let me put it this way.”
Von der Leyen and other German officials on Wednesday called for concerted efforts to prevent chemical weapons being used in Syria, and Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany could not simply look away if such attacks took place.
Along with diplomacy, von der Leyen said on Wednesday, "credible deterrence" is also needed to prevent the future use of chemical weapons.
Germany "cannot continue to act as if this doesn’t affect us," von der Leyen went on, adding that as part of the international community, the country "must be prepared, because we do not know what concrete situation we will face."
The German government said it was in talks with the United States and other allies about possible participation in military intervention if chemical weapons were used in attacks on Idlib, the last major opposition-held enclave in Syria.
The news has divided the German ruling coalition, with the Social Democrats, ruling any such action out unless it is sanctioned by the United Nations.
Germany, under pressure from the United States to boost defence spending and take on more responsibility within NATO, did not take part in April military strikes by US, French and British forces on Syria after a chemical weapons attack.