Syria: Berlin hints tough action on new chemical attack

By Ayhan Simsek

BERLIN (AA) – Chancellor Angela Merkel signalled Wednesday that Germany could support U.S.-led retaliatory airstrikes on Syria if the regime would further use chemical weapons against civilians.

Addressing German lawmakers at the parliament, Merkel reaffirmed her government’s support for a political solution in Syria but also stressed that Berlin could not remain indifferent to another chemical attack by the Assad regime.

"Simply claiming that we could turn a blind eye to the use of chemical weapons, to the violation of an international convention… this cannot be our response," she told opposition lawmakers, who have spoken against Germany’s possible support to retaliatory airstrikes against the regime.

"Any response would be decided on the basis of our constitution and in line with our obligations to the parliament," Merkel stressed.

Bild daily reported on Monday that the Defense Ministry was examining options for joining a possible U.S.-led military operation against the regime, in the case of a chemical attack on the last opposition stronghold of Idlib.

The German army Bundeswehr might provide support to such an operation by deploying Tornado surveillance jets, which are generally used for reconnaissance flights but can also perform airstrikes, the daily reported.

The main opposition AfD party claimed on Wednesday that actively joining airstrikes might lead to a military confrontation with Russia, and might also trigger another refugee influx.

Merkel’s coalition partner Social Democrat Party (SPD) has also been skeptical of an active support to retaliatory airstrikes against the regime but has not yet taken a final decision on the matter.

Germany’s constitution and the Parliamentary Participation Act have been highly restrictive and allowed military deployments abroad only in the context of Berlin’s international obligations to the United Nations, NATO or the European Union.

In April, Merkel’s conservative-left coalition gave "political support" to the U.S.-led military operation against the Syrian regime, in response to its use of chemical weapons in the Damascus suburb of Douma.

German fighter jets did not take part at that time in the joint-strike by the U.S., France, and the U.K.