Shortly after arriving in the Turkish town of Kahramanmaras on Monday evening, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said the international community "must not forget the people in need in this country," despite the fact that other crises had largely knocked Syria out of the headlines.
She also noted that there was still no end in sight to the more than three-year-old conflict, which, according to United Nations estimates has claimed more than 100,000 lives and forced more than 2.5 million to flee their homes. The German defense minister also thanked Turkey for taking in many refugees who have fled the fighting.
Von der Leyen is in Turkey to visit Bundeswehr troops deployed to Kahramanmaras as part of the NATO operation "Active Fence," in which US, German, and Dutch Patriot defense systems have been deployed to protect Turkey from possible missile attacks from Syrian territory. Around 300 German soldiers are deployed in Kahramanmaras, 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Syrian border, to help operate the Patriot missile defense systems.
The Western military alliance NATO agreed to set up the missile defense shield in December 2012, on the request of member state Turkey after a number of shells landed on its territory.
Tensions along the border were heightened on Sunday when Turkish forces shot down a Syrian fighter jet, saying it had violated Turkish airspace.
pfd/jr (AFP, dpa)