German defense chief: Europe must act on Syria

Europe

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told DW Monday she would discuss her plan on the fringe of a NATO military alliance meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

The plan had been coordinated with Chancellor Angela Merkel and submitted to Western allies, she added.

“My recommendation is that we establish an internationally controlled security zone in cooperation with Turkey and Russia,” said Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is also head of Merkel’s Christian Democratic (CDU) party.

Read more: How stable is the northern Syria ceasefire?

“This security zone would seek to resume the fight against terror and against the ‘Islamic State,’ which has currently come to a standstill. It would also ensure that we stabilize the region so that rebuilding civilian life is once again possible, and so that those who have fled can also return voluntarily,” said Kramp-Karrenbauer.

Erdogan, Putin in Sochi

Her plan comes after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent troops on October 9 to evict Kurdish YPG fighters inside Syria’s border, just days after US President Donald Trump declared a pullout of US troops who were backing Kurdish forces holding Islamic State captives. 

The United Nations has estimated that at least 160,000 residents have been uprooted since the start of the Turkish offensive.

Erdogan on Tuesday is due to attend talks in Sochi, Russia, with President Vladimir Putin whose forces inside Syria back those of President Bashar Assad. Tuesday also marks the expiry of a five-day pause in northern Syria mediated last week during a visit to Istanbul by US Vice President Mike Pence.

Kramp-Karrenbauer stressed the need for Europe to take action. “But we can’t only talk about this. Europe cannot simply be an onlooker. We also have to come up with our own recommendations and initiate discussions,” the defense minister said.

She added that Germany should use its position in as a nonpermanent member of the UN Security Council and on the basis of existing UN resolutions to create the zone.

Turkey ‘cannot occupy permanently’

This solution, she said, should make it clear that Turkey could not occupy the zone in northeastern Syria permanently — a stance contrary to international law, she told German news agency dpa on Monday.

“This is first of all a proposal that I am making as party leader and as defense minister, Kramp-Karrenbauer told DW in its interview with her marking her 100 days in office, adding: “I know it is a proposal that is supported by many defense and foreign-policy experts in my party.” 

“Before going public with this recommendation I informed the chancellor. This will definitely be discussed within the government.”

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told German broadcaster ZDF television Tuesday that Turkey’s cross-border operation amounted to an “invasion” that was illegitimate under international law.

Earlier on Monday, CDU foreign policy expert Roderich Kiesewetter had suggested on public radio the creation of a humanitarian safe zone involving from 30,000 to 40,000 soldiers of EU nations, to be established in consultation with Turkey and Russia..  

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