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Germany says no to US request for ground troops in Syria

Chancellor Angela Merkel had faced cross-party pressure to reject request for soldiers in fight against Islamic State
Germany has so far deployed surveillance aircraft and other non-combat military support in Syria (AFP)

Berlin said on Monday it had no plans to send ground troops to Syria, refusing a US request for Germany to ramp up its military involvement in the fight against Islamic State (IS).

US special representative on Syria James Jeffrey had told German media, including the Die Welt newspaper, on Sunday that Washington wanted Berlin to put boots on the ground in northern Syria.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said: "When I say that the government intends to continue with its ongoing measures in the framework of the anti-IS coalition, then that means no ground troops." 

Jeffrey, who was visiting Berlin for Syria talks, had added that he expected an answer this month, the AFP news agency reported.

The mandate for Germany's participation in Syria runs out on 31 October, meaning that parliament would be called on to decide what to do beyond that date.

Seibert noted that Germany has "for years been making a significant and internationally acknowledged contribution" to fighting IS.

Berlin is now in talks with the US on "how the engagement should develop further," he added.

Public opposition

Chancellor Angela Merkel's junior coalition partner the socialist SPD, the Greens, liberal Free Democrats and Left party had all urged the veteran leader to turn down the US request for troops.

Washington has two goals in northeastern Syria: to support the US-backed Kurdish forces that expelled IS from northern Syria because they are increasingly threatened by Turkey, and to prevent a potential IS resurgence in the war-torn country.

The US is hoping Europe will help, pressuring Britain, France and now Germany, which has so far deployed surveillance aircraft and other non-combat military support in Syria.

However Germany's history makes military spending and foreign adventures controversial.

Berlin sent soldiers to fight abroad for the first time since World War II in 1995 to Croatia during the Bosnian war, and much of the political spectrum and the public remains suspicious of such deployments.