What has happened?
In north-eastern Syria, the situation is relatively stable compared to the rest of the country. The “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF) which are dominated by the Kurdish “People’s Protection Units” (YPG) fought as allies of the United States against the ISIS terrorist organisation. They also received substantial military training and support for this purpose. Turkey’s unilateral military offensive is targeting the YPG, which in its view are allied with the Kurdish PKK terrorist organisation. Moreover, the Turkish Government has announced that it intends to relocate to the region Syrian refugees that until now have sought shelter in Turkey.
A military escalation in north-eastern Syria could therefore substantially impact both the civilian population and the region.
What is Germany’s position?
The German Government believes that Turkey’s actions run the risk of further destabilising the region, creating additional refugee flows, and sparking a revival of ISIS. The Federal Foreign Office has therefore repeatedly and strongly urged the Turkish Foreign Ministry to refrain from its planned military intervention in north-eastern Syria. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas made the following statement after the offensive began:
We condemn the Turkish military offensive in north-eastern Syria in the strongest possible terms. We call on Turkey to end its offensive and to pursue its security interests in a peaceful manner.
He underscored this position during a telephone call with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. Immediately after the offensive began, and acting of behalf of the five European members of the UN Security Council (alongside Germany, these are France, the UK, Belgium and Poland), Germany requested that a Council meeting be held to address this issue.
The German Government is supporting the initiation of a political process in Syria to bring about lasting peace. A constitutional committee is scheduled to be convened soon, which could mark the beginning of such a process.
What is the German Government doing in north-eastern Syria?
Germany is a member of the the Global Coalition against Daesh and is thereby actively helping to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS and its terrorists in Syria and Iraq – including in north-eastern Syria. Germany is making a significant contribution to rebuilding, stabilising and providing humanitarian assistance in areas in Syria and Iraq that have been liberated from ISIS.
Germany is currently the second-largest humanitarian donor in Syria and has pledged 500 million euros in humanitarian assistance for 2019. As part of these efforts, the German Government supports the activities of the World Food Programme, the UN Refugee Agency and the International Red Cross throughout the country. In the northeast, the German Government has made available some 5 million euros in 2019, including aid for refugee camps that provide shelter to people who have fled the battles with ISIS. As the largest donor to the World Food Programme’s efforts in Syria, Germany is playing a significant role in supplying food to these camps.
Stabilising areas liberated from ISIS is an important part of Germany’s engagement. Germany co-chairs the Working Group on Stabilisation of the Global Coalition against Daesh. In north-eastern Syria, the German Government has since 2017 provided more than 50 million euros for stabilisation measures in areas liberated from ISIS. The focus is on clearing mines left by ISIS and on re-establishing basic services, such as water supply, waste water treatment and electricity.