Germany’s proposal for the establishment of an internationally controlled security zone in Syria would be in cooperation with Turkey and Russia, Minister of Defense Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told DW in an exclusive interview Monday evening.
“This security zone would seek to resume the fight against terror and against the ‘Islamic State,’ which has currently come to a standstill,” she said. “It would also ensure that we stabilize the region so that rebuilding civilian life is once again possible, and so that those who have fled can also return voluntarily.”
The defense minister and leader of Germany’s ruling conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) added that longtime Chancellor Angela Merkel had already been informed of the recommendation, and that she has the backing of defense and foreign policy experts within her own party.
Any recommendation, however, must first be adopted by both the German Cabinet and its parliament, the Bundestag.
“But we can’t only talk about this,” Kramp-Karrenbauer stressed. “Europe cannot simply be an onlooker. We also have to come up with our own recommendations and initiate discussions.”
Resume the fight against extremist terrorism
The goal of the proposed security zone is to resume the fight against Islamic terror that’s come to a standstill since Turkey’s offensive in northern Syria began last week against the Kurdish YPG militia, a crucial faction within the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the US-led coalition in the fight against Islamic State.
The situation in northern Syria is one that “directly concerns the security interests of Europe and the security interests of Germany,” Kramp-Karrenbauer told DW. “In my opinion, it requires a stronger European initiative.”
Last week, Chancellor Merkel proposed a summit with France, the United Kingdom and Turkey to discuss the escalating situation in northern Syria. At least 160,000 civilians have been displaced since the October 9 invasion, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Now, Kramp-Karrenbauer is calling for concrete recommendations for a security zone to be worked out within the longstanding Franco-German Defense and Security Council, together with the UK.
Russia and Turkey to be included
Kramp-Karrenbauer underlined that Turkey and Russia would also be actively included in discussions.
“Russia is one of the most important actors in Syria,” she told DW. “Regardless of whether one likes that or not, it is a fact that we have to deal with.”
Germany would also use its current nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council to enter into bilateral talks with all parties involved in the conflict, the defense minister added.
“The alternative to that would be that the Europeans and NATO simply watch as talks between Turkey and Russia continue,” she said.
The paradigm shift in defense policy follows the German government’s declaration Monday afternoon that Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria is a violation of international law.
Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, refuted that characterization in an interview with DW Monday.
“European friends should be thankful to our soldiers for doing this very dangerous but important work,” he said, adding that the cease-fire, slated to end on Tuesday, would not be extended unless all Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which he referred to as “terrorists,” had left northern Syria.