with you in spirit Merkel says Germany won’t take part in any military action against Syria

The chancellor pledges support for efforts to suppress chemical weapons, but takes a cautious line on the Middle East conflict.
Listening, watching, angsting.

Chancellor Angela Merkel categorically ruled out German participation in any military action against Syria, but said Europe’s biggest country would support every effort to combat use of chemical weapons.

Ms. Merkel emphasized there has been no decision on military action, but affirmed Germany would not take part if there were. “But we are watching and support anything that can be done to signal that this use of chemical weapons is not acceptable,” she said at a press conference on the occasion of a visit from Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen.

Ms. Merkel did not comment directly on tweets by US President Donald Trump warning Syria and its allies of an imminent missile attack in retaliation for reported use of chemical weapons in the conflict. “We are closely following what we are hearing from the United States of America and France,” she said.

To simply do nothing is also difficult. Angela Merkel, German chancellor

French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday that France has proof that the Bashar al-Assad regime used chemical weapons last week in Douma in Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, resulting in at least 70 deaths. He said he is speaking daily with Mr. Trump about possible military action, though he seeks to avoid further destabilizing the region. British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday said she had the approval of her cabinet for Britain to take part in military action.

“To simply do nothing is also difficult,” Ms. Merkel acknowledged in Berlin. What is clear is that the agreement four years ago to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons has not been carried out. It reflects badly on Russia that an investigation of attacks earlier this year by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) could not take place, she suggested.

Russia is viewed as Mr. Assad’s closest ally and protector in his efforts to suppress anti-regime forces. Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, has openly supported the Syrian leader and Russian air support enabled him to cling to power. Ms. Merkel pledged Germany’s support for efforts by the OPCW and the UN Security Council to call Syria to account for the illegal use of chemical weapons.

But the chancellor's reluctance to employ military force is in line with Berlin’s consistent stance on Syria. Germany wants a clearer idea of just what kind of settlement is envisioned to resolve the Syrian conflict. In general, Germany has been averse to employing military force and cautious about how far it will go in confronting Russia.

Darrell Delamaide is a writer and editor for Handelsblatt Global in Washington, DC. To contact the author: [email protected].