′Arms for Kurds′ rattles Greens conference | News | DW | 23.11.2014
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'Arms for Kurds' rattles Greens conference

Germany's opposition Greens have reaffirmed pacifist rejection of German arms deliveries. But, they've given Green deputies leeway to cast conscience votes in parliament on arming Kurds in Iraq to fend off "IS" jihadis.

Germany's pacifist Greens renewed their policy of wanting a general ban on German weapons deliveries into crisis regions at their annual conference in Hamburg on Sunday - but with a twist.

Some 700 delegates concluded hefty weekend debate with an add-on clause acknowledging that their 63 opposition deputies in Germany's Bundestag parliament had the freedom to assess the situation in the Iraqi-Syrian warzone differently and to cast conscience votes freely.

The resolution adopted also said that Germany should examine possible Bundeswehr participation in the region during a UN-mandated military operation, if one were established in future.

'Small sensation'

Party co-leader Cem Özdemir (pictured above) described the conscience vote clause for parliamentarians as a "small sensation."

He had spoken in favor of Germany's recent policy decision to provide arms and training for Kurdish peshmerga fighters. As a means of last resort, Özdemir said the Kurds must be put in a position to repell the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" (IS) jihadi group.

Özdemir, one of Germany's most prominent politicians with Turkish heritage, also stood alongside a group of young Kurds who took to the Greens conference podium on Saturday and urged delegates to accept Kurdish appeals for German assistance in Iraq.

Claudia Roth Bündnis 90 Die Grünen

Roth urged the Greens to remain pacifist

Region 'gigantic weapons stockpile'

Özdemir's stance was opposed by Claudia Roth, a former Greens leader and now a Bundestag vice-president or deputy speaker, who said arms deliveries to the war-torn region was not the solution.

"The Kurds cannot fight on our behalf against the Islamic State," she said.

"The entire region is - on the contrary - a gigantic weapons stockpile," Roth said, adding that a "comprehensive strategy and a political solution" was needed in the Middle East.

Asylum 'compromise' criticized

Young Greens delegates, especially, condemned Germany's recent decision to drop asylum protection for people from Serbia, Macedonia and Bosnia by directing their criticism at veteran Greens member, Winfried Kretschmann. Youth spokesperson Theresa Klamer spoke of "historic breach" of Greens policy.

Kretschmann, the Greens premier of southwestern state Baden Württemberg, received long applause, however, after saying his stance, which led to an asylum policy compromise in Germany's Bundesrat, had resulted in "substantial improvements" for refugees in Germany, including criteria allowing them to seek work and the lifting of strict stipulations on where they should reside.

Bundesparteitag der Grünen

Kretschmann faced criticism over asylum compromize

This was "enormously important for the self-esteem" of asylum-seekers, he said, adding that the individual right to asylum under Germany's constitution had not been sacrificed.

The upper house of Germany's bicameral parliamentary system comprises representatives of Germany's 16 federal states, including Kretschmann and his Greens-Social Democrat coalition state government.

Readiness jeopardized?

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, in an interview with the Berlin newspaper Tagesspiegel am Sonntag, accused Greens critics of the asylum compromise of jeopardizing the readiness of Germans to accept the entry of more refugees into Germany.

Thomas de Maiziere

De Maiziere says Germany should expect more refugees

"Poor treatment of ethnic Roma in some Balkan nations is not political persecution, That is hard for those affected, but this clear distinction was necessary," de Maiziere said, adding that he expected more refugees from world's crisis regions.

Germany must get used to having higher numbers of asylum-seekers and refugees for "years ahead," he said.

On Saturday, the Greens conference passed a resolution demanding agricultural reform.

Re-positioning the Greens

The Hamburg conference was part of a Greens bid to re-position itself as a left-liberal party ahead of Germany's 2017 federal election under the slogan "Party of Freedom" and overcome longstanding policy differences between the more pragmatic so-called "realos" (from the German term Realpolitik) and party leftists.

Since last year's federal election departure of the pro-business liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), the Greens form the smallest opposition group in the Bundestag in Berlin, alongside the far-left party die Linke, which has 64 deputies.

The Greens began as a West German party in Karlsruhe in 1980. It expanded after Germany's 1989 reunification to include diverse eastern German groups.

Between 1998 and 2005 the Greens party was junior partner in a center-left coalition federal government led by Social Democratic (SPD) chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

ipj/msh (dpa, Reuters,KNA)

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