Germany to send jets to back France's anti-ISIL fight
KONFRONTASI-Germany has announced plans to step up its fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria following a direct appeal from France after the deadly Paris attacks.
The German government said on Thursday it will deploy Tornado reconnaissance jets, refuelling aircraft and a frigate to the region.
The move represents a significant shift for Berlin, which has resisted such direct involvement in the conflict. However, it has no plans to join France, the US and Russia in conducting air strikes in Syria.
"Today the government took difficult but important and necessary decisions," Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen told reporters after meeting with politicians. "We are standing with France."
Chancellor Angela Merkel had promised the support, which must still be approved by parliament, during talks with French President Francois Hollande in Paris on Wednesday.
Berlin expects to commit between four and six Tornado jets, provide satellite support, refuelling planes and a frigate to help protect the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which the French navy has sent to the eastern Mediterranean to support air strikes in both Syria and Iraq.
Henning Otte, a member of parliament for Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, who acts as a spokesman for the party on defence matters, told the Reuters news agency that the government aimed to have a draft of the new mandate ready by Tuesday and seek approval from the Bundestag by the end of the year.
The move follows attacks in Paris on November 13 that killed 130 people and led Hollande to call for a grand coalition of countries to fight ISIL.
Separately, German police said two men arrested in Berlin earlier on Thursday on suspicion of planning an attack did not pose a threat to the capital.
Berlin police had said after raiding a mosque that they were checking a "current threat," the DPA news agency reported.
The investigation also led officers to the vehicle of the two men, aged 28 and 46, but authorities said they found no explosives.
Concerns about the contents of the car, in the city's Britz neighbourhood, had prompted police to evacuate 120 residents from 16 nearby buildings.[mr/aje]