Germany to stop reconnaissance missions over Iraq, Syria: document

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany will next year end its reconnaissance and air-to-air refueling missions that are part of U.S.-led operations against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the government decided on Tuesday, a document seen by Reuters showed.

Germany, whose Nazi past makes military action a sensitive issue, has mainly carried out limited engagements abroad since World War Two, focusing on training, surveillance, medical rescue and peacekeeping, although it participated in the 1999 air offensive on what was then Yugoslavia.

Germany’s air force will end the flights by Oct. 31, 2019, the document showed, without giving a reason for the decision.

Parts of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), who are junior partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition, have raised scepticism toward the flights.

The German cabinet set no end date for a mission by German troops to train Iraqi military personnel, but it is due to be reviewed by April 30, the document showed.

The lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, will have the final say on the continued deployment of up to 800 German troops in the region.

The German aircraft taking part in the reconnaissance and refueling missions are currently stationed at Azraq air base in Jordan.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said last month during a visit there that she could not rule out a longer-term deployment of her country’s forces in the Middle East, amid a broader debate about a role for Germany in possible military action Syria.

Reporting by Sabine Siebold; writing by Thomas Seythal; editing by Riham Alkousaa and Ed Osmond