Germany's defense minister has backed the deployment of tornado jets in Syria, saying it will help target "IS" and reduce refugee influx. Her visit comes soon after a suicide bomber killed 10 German tourists in Istanbul.
"We are here together because we want to fight the reasons why people flee… We know that the destruction of Syria and Iraq by the IS has forced people towards this desperate measure," von der Leyen said at a meeting with Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz in the NATO military base at Incirlik in Turkey on Thursday.
Germany's six tornado jets are stationed at the Incirlik base and are used for reconnaissance missions over Iraq and Syria. They supply images to other countries in the coalition, which attack suitable targets. The German army or the Bundeswehr itself does not bomb targets.
Turkish Defense Minister Yilmaz praised Germany's role in the war against terror and said the tornado jets were Germany's important contribution towards fighting against the "Islamic State" in Syria.
Germany had accepted over a million refugees until now and there were two million migrants from Syria in Turkey, Yilmaz explained. Germany's tornadoes could therefore prove to be an important contribution in defeating the IS, he added. "Turkey is ready to offer all its capabilities in the war against terror," Yilmaz said.
He also referred to the bombing in Istanbul in which 11 people (mostly German citizens) were killed. Yilmaz said the attack "made it clear once more how important the international military coalition is in fighting terrorism." Emphasizing Germany's importance as Turkey's strategic partner, Yilmaz said terror would never be victorious.
The German defense minister's visit comes a day after France and the US urged all members of the anti-IS coalition to do their maximum to prevent the terror organization from expanding its influence.
Additionally, Germany's frigate "Augsburg" has been deployed in the Persian Gulf to protect a French aircraft carrier and another plane serves as a fuel refilling station. The German parliament has limited the deployment of soldiers for the Syrian operation to 1,200.
mg/kms (AFP, dpa, AP)