BERLIN, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- Berlin will reach a decision autonomously on whether to participate in a potential military strike against the Syrian government, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) said on Wednesday.
Speaking to the German press agency (dpa), Maas emphasized that Germany would not allow itself to be strong-armed by other countries on the issue. "We will reach an autonomous decision in accordance with the constitutional principles which apply in Germany, and of course also in accordance with international law," the foreign minister said.
Maas noted that he had yet to receive a concrete request from the United States to join a retaliatory strike against a hypothetical chemical weapons attack by Assad on the rebel-held Syrian town of Idlib. "Such a request can only be made when there has been an actual use of chemical weapons [...] until then the priority in the current situation is to prevent a humanitarian disaster in political talks," the German FM added.
Earlier, the newspaper BILD reported that the German ministry for defense was assessing whether Tornado fighter jets, which are currently used for reconnaissance efforts in the international effort against the so-called "Islamic State" jets could also be made available for a prospective military strike against the Syrian government. According to BILD, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen was hereby seriously considering joining an alliance formed by the United States, France and the United Kingdom which already launched an attack in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian government forces back in April.
Maas highlighted in his conversation with dpa that any use of force by Germany in Syria required the approval of the country's federal parliament. Andrea Nahles, the leader of the German Social Democrats (SPD), has categorically ruled out any participation in a military strike.
During an address to parliamentary delegates on Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel sharply criticized what she described as an uncompromising stance of her coalition partner in this context. "Simply to claim that we can avert our eyes if chemical weapons are used and an international convention is not abided by, that cannot be the answer," Merkel argued.
The chancellor's comments were met with applause from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU) parliamentary factions and demonstrative silence on the part of the SPD. Merkel stressed that whatever Germany's ultimate course of action, it would have to be grounded in its constitutional order and involve the parliament in the decision-making procedure.