Germany offers France recon jets, frigate for IS fight

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) and Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) and Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen. PHOTO: AFP

BERLIN (AFP) - Germany on Thursday (Nov 26) offered France Tornado reconnaissance jets, a naval frigate, aerial refuelling and satellite images to back the fight against the Islamic State jihadist group.

"France was struck to the bone by the horrific attacks by the IS but we know that this inhumane rage can hit us or other societies at any time too," said Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, announcing the support.

The offer will have to be formally approved by Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet and supported by parliament, where Merkel's "grand coalition" has an overwhelming majority.

In Paris, the Elysee presidential palace said French leader Francois Hollande "warmly" thanked Germany for its support and predicted other European countries would follow suit.

The offer came a day after Merkel pledged in Paris to "very soon" decide how to help its closest EU ally battle the IS group in Syria, and after she met cabinet ministers in charge of security and the major parties' parliamentary groups.

The government had agreed on "difficult but correct and necessary steps", said von der Leyen at a press conference in the Reichstag building, flanked by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

She said Germany could send Tornado aircraft fitted with surveillance technology that can take high-resolution photos and infrared images, even at night and in bad weather, and transmit them in real time to ground stations.

A German frigate could help protect the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the eastern Mediterranean, from which fighter jets are carrying out bombing runs, and the tanker aircraft could refuel them mid-air to extend their range, she said.

Steinmeier said the political process must continue to find a solution to the Syrian conflict, but added that "we also won't get there without... a military confrontation against the IS, Al-Nusra and other terrorist groups in Syria".

Earlier Thursday the defence policy spokesman of Merkel's conservative CDU/CSU parliamentary group, Henning Otte, had pledged that "Germany will play a more active role than before".

Otte said Germany would go beyond its current arms shipments to and training of Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces combating IS.

"We are not only strengthening the training mission in northern Iraq, but will step up our commitment in the fight against IS terror, among other things with RECCE reconnaissance Tornados," he said.

Post-war Germany has been traditionally reluctant to send troops abroad, although it has joined UN-mandated missions in the Balkans and elsewhere, and the NATO coalition in Afghanistan.

Germany has not taken part in air strikes against the IS in Syria and Iraq, which have been mainly flown by US and French aircraft.

Otte said that "the IS can only be defeated militarily, therefore no idea must be ruled out as we engage in the fight against Islamist terrorism".

On Wednesday, von der Leyen said Germany would deploy 650 more troops to Mali to relieve the French-led mission there.

In a statement, Hollande's office said the announcement from Berlin on Thursday was a "very major contribution, showing Germany's will to play a frontline role in the fight against the mutual curse" of IS.

The jihadist group claimed the November 13 terror assaults in Paris that claimed 130 lives and left 350 injured.

"The president is convinced that other European states will follow this move and answer his call for solidarity from member states of the European Union," the Elysee statement added.

France last week invoked a clause requiring EU member states to provide military assistance after the Paris attacks.