BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s defense minister said on Tuesday she welcomed Saudi Arabia’s announcement of the formation of a 34-state Islamic military coalition to combat terrorism.
Ursula von der Leyen told German broadcaster ZDF the alliance would be of help if it joined other countries fighting Islamic State (IS), adding that IS had gained strength from disagreement among various opposition parties on how to fight or who to protect.
“I think it’s right that the opposition is forming a group but it needs to be - and this is important - part of the Vienna process that includes all countries fighting against IS like the U.S., Europe, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia but also Iran and China,” she said.
Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday it had formed a coalition, headquartered in Riyadh, which included Arab countries such as Egypt, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, and Islamic countries such as Turkey, Malaysia and Pakistan.
Von der Leyen also said Germany was rejecting a request from the United States for Berlin to provide more military help in the fight against Islamic State.
She said several dozen countries had received the letter and she would write back saying Germany was on the same side as the U.S. and was already doing a lot.
At the weekend Merkel also dismissed the request in an interview after German magazine Der Spiegel reported that U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter had sent a letter asking for a bigger military contribution from Germany.
Earlier this month the German parliament approved a plan to join the campaign in Syria by sending Tornado reconnaissance jets, a frigate to help protect the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, refueling aircraft and up to 1,200 military personnel. Germany will not join countries like Britain, France, the United States and Russia in conducting air strikes though.
Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Lisa Barrington