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Europe

Germany to Station Troops in France for Joint Mission

German troops are set to head to France for the first time since World War II, when German soldiers occupied much of the country. Where the troops will be stationed has not yet been determined.

French troops in an armored cars

French and German troops have already served on missions together

France has agreed to allow a German battalion to be stationed in eastern France for the first time since World War II, the French Defense Ministry said Tuesday, Feb. 3.

Anywhere between 450 and 800 German soldiers will likely be stationed near the northeastern French city of Strasbourg. The precise location was still under negotiation, an unnamed diplomatic source told Reuters news agency on Monday.

"The question of whether this will happen has basically been decided. It's now about the 'how' and 'how many' and 'where,'" the source said.

Such a move would have been unimaginable in the past, with animosity stemming from the 1870 Franco-German conflict and two world wars. Times have changed. Germany and France have found themselves at the forefront of pushing for a joint European defense strategy.

Armies already cooperating

The French calvalry in 1923 in Essen

Historically, French-German relations have been marked by conflict

The countries already have a 5,000-member bi-national brigade, which has served in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan since it was founded 20 years ago.

"The prospect of seeing German troops settle in France again regularly makes my grandfather splutter," wrote a French reader on the Web site of newspaper Liberation when President Nicolas Sarkozy first proposed the idea last November.

Yet a younger generation sees it differently: "What an extraordinary symbol of Franco-German reconciliation" read the post, according to Reuters.

Location still under discussion

A French-German brigade carries a stretcher as part of a NATO training exercise

A French-German brigade already exists

The Franco-German brigade's units have been stationed in the German towns of Donaueschingen, Muellheim and Immendingen. But France recently said it would recall some of its troops to help fill gaps back home. Germany's Bundeswehr has reportedly agreed to move some soldiers with it.

The troops will likely be stationed in Alsace or Lorraine, regions which were alternately claimed by both countries for centuries and which now belong to France.

"Discussions are continuing on choosing a base for the battalion," said Christian Baptiste, a French defense ministry spokesman.

Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are expected to announce further details of the plan at an upcoming security conference in Munich, according to German media.

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