UPDATES WITH COMMENTS BY MERKEL’S SPOKESMAN
BERLIN (AA) - Chancellor Angela Merkel's junior coalition partner the Social Democratic Party (SPD) has rejected a U.S. request to deploy German ground troops in northern Syria.
Thorsten Schaefer-Guembel, one of the three interim SPD leaders, said on Twitter that his party would oppose any such attempt after a senior U.S. envoy urged German government on Sunday to send troops to partly replace American forces.
“There won’t be any German ground troops in Syria with us. Besides that, I don’t see any willingness among our coalition partners for that,” Schaefer-Guembel said.
James Jeffrey, the U.S. special envoy for Syria, visited Berlin on Friday and told local media over the weekend that the U.S. administration asked from Germany and other partners in the anti-Daesh coalition to send ground troops to northern Syria.
"We want ground troops from Germany to partly replace our soldiers," Jeffrey said.
Later, Chancellor Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert also confirmed ongoing talks between Germany, the U.S. and other coalition partners for stabilization efforts in northern Syria.
In a news conference in Berlin, Seibert said German government would continue its civilian and military contribution for the anti-Daesh coalition, and signaled that Germany doesn’t have the intention to send ground troops in northern Syria.
“When I say that the Federal Government envisages to continue with the previous measures in the context of anti-Daesh coalition, these include no ground troops, as it is well known,” he said.
German weekly Welt am Sonntag has reported that the U.S. has requested hundreds of ground troops from Germany and other partners, to partly replace American forces currently deployed in northern Syria.
U.S. President Donald Trump said in December that the U.S.-led coalition has succeeded in defeating Daesh, and he pledged to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.
Turkey has long criticized the U.S. military involvement in northern Syria and its support for the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is controlled by the PKK/YPG terrorist group.
Turkish leaders have long warned their U.S. counterparts that one cannot rely on a terrorist organization like the PKK while fighting another terrorist group, the Daesh.
The PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU, waged a terror campaign against Turkey for more than 30 years and has been responsible for the death of nearly 40,000 people. The YPG is its Syrian offshoot.