BERLIN (Reuters) - The German government offered clear support on Friday for U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State militants’ bases inside Syria, with an aide to Chancellor Angela Merkel pointing out that Damascus had not made any protest.
Germany looks unlikely so far to join in the attacks by U.S. and Arab forces against IS militants in northern and eastern Syria, though it has now sent weapons, military trainers and equipment to Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State in Iraq.
“The attacks in northern Syria are not about Syria itself or the Syrian government, it is about helping the Iraqi government to defend Iraq against attacks carried out by IS from Syria,” said Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert.
“That is the point of this military operation. The Syrian government was advised beforehand and has made no protest,” he told a news conference.
Germany is wary of sending forces overseas and polls show there is still widespread dislike of such missions, rooted in a post-war reaction to Nazi militarism. Germany has taken part in peace missions in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Mali, among others, but not the war in Iraq or air raids on Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.
Germany has not been asked to join the Syrian operation and is unlikely to do so, its foreign minister has said.
But the government rejected a spate of media reports that Germany’s armed forces are ill-prepared even for their limited role in Iraq, after military flights taking trainers and arms to Kurdish fighters in Iraq were delayed by technical problems.
“We are engaged in 17 operations worldwide, from a training mission in Mali to air surveillance with Eurofighters in the Baltics and we carry out these operations daily, round the clock and on weekends,” said defense ministry spokesman Ingo Gerhartz.
Reporting by Stephen Brown and Andreas Rinke; Editing by Dominic Evans