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German parliament approves non-combat mission in Syria

German deputies attend a plenary session of the lower house of parliament Bundestag before voting on a non-combat German role in the fight against Daesh Takfiris in Syria, Berlin, December 4, 2015. (AFP photo)

German lawmakers have endorsed a plan for undertaking a non-combat military mission against the Daesh Takfiri group in Syria.

Members of the German lower house of parliament, or Bundestag, on Friday voted 445 to 146 to approve the plan, which includes reconnaissance jets and up to 1,200 support personnel.

The plan was introduced following Chancellor Angela Merkel's pledge for more support to the fight against Daesh after the group carried out a series of shootings and explosions in Paris, killing over 130.

Germany plans to send up to six Tornado reconnaissance planes and tanker aircraft to Turkey’s Incirlik air base next week. A German frigate will also escort the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the eastern Mediterranean, although reports say that it will not engage in any combat mission.

A reconnaissance jet Tornado of the German Air Force Luftwaffe flies at the military airfeld in Jagel, northern Germany on December 4, 2015. (AFP photo)

Germany had earlier refused to directly engage in the US-led air campaign against Daesh in Iraq and Syria, and had only provided training to about 5,500 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who was in Turkey prior to the vote, reiterated that the current airstrikes, which Germany plans to contribute to, are aimed at helping anti-Daesh forces on the ground retake territories from the group’s occupation.  

“We need this combination of airstrikes and local ground forces that have a vital interest in winning back territory,” she told a news conference.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Thursday that no European troops would be deployed on the ground in Syria to fight Daesh, adding that a prolonged conflict in Syria serves nobody's interest and a political approach must be pursued.

"Therefore it [military intervention] will be strongly embedded within an overall concept that places the emphasis on working out a political solution. I venture to say that if we make progress on a political solution, when we really take steps forward, then the military conflict will be of a manageable length."

The US-led coalition airstrikes have widely been criticized as ineffective with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad saying terrorists in Syria have grown in power since the military campaign was launched in September 2014. Reports also show that the air strikes have repeatedly hit Syrian infrastructure. Russia, which recently launched an air campaign of its own in Syria, has also described the coalition attacks on Daesh militants as "sparing." 

The US-led coalition's military mission in Syria is being conducted without any authorization from the government in Damascus or a United Nations mandate.

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