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Diplomacy

As Ban visits, Merkel seeks more German involvement in conflict resolution

Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany "must pitch in, to help bring certain conflicts towards a resolution" during a visit from the UN's Ban Ki-moon. But Merkel played down the prospect of more military involvement.

Angela Merkel said in Berlin on Thursday that a greater German role in international affairs did not necessarily mean a reappraisal of when the Bundeswehr was deployed on military missions abroad.

"This is not a matter of more, or less, military engagement, it's a question of using the political influence of a major country like Germany," Merkel said in a meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

"There is never one single solution. No conflict around the world can be solved purely by military means," Merkel said, before adding that military support or peacekeeping contingents could clearly play a part. "We will need to look, on a case-by-case basis, and see what sort of contribution we should make."

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had issued a similar message in his earlier meeting with the South Korean diplomat, who also met with German President Joachim Gauck on Thursday.

Invitation to climate conference

Ban Ki-moon, who moves on to the UN offices in Bonn on Friday and then the 50th Munich Security Conference on Saturday, said he hoped for greater German support on the global stage.

"Countries like Germany, which is one of the most thriving, most robust, most healthy economies - an economic power - should also show political leadership. That is why I am here," Ban said. To this end, Ban said he had asked Merkel to travel in person to New York for September's UN climate change conference.

"I asked her to take a personal leadership role on this issue," Ban said.

Foreign Minister Steinmeier had said during his meeting with Ban that he supported Germany's "political system favoring military restraint," but also argued that "this cannot be turned into a broader principle of reservation."

Greater German UN role also sought

As a result of the first and second World Wars, Germany has a largely pacifist constitution and tends only to deploy Bundeswehr soldiers on peacekeeping missions abroad. Although German troops are stationed in Afghanistan, none were sent to Iraq, and the country also abstained in the UN Security Council vote authorizing airstrikes over Libya.

Thomas de Maiziere, now interior minister, had criticized France and Britain during a military ceremony marking his departure as defense minister earlier this month. Merkel's close Christian Democrat ally had said the country "does not need a lecture from anybody" on the issue of military engagement.

Yet de Maiziere's successor as defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen, told the parliamentarians in the Bundestag on Wednesday that Germany would have to consider a more involved future role, especially in Africa.

Germany is also seeking a greater role at the United Nations itself, beyond its longstanding and faltering efforts for a permanent seat on the Security Council. The government is Berlin is currently seeking the chair of the UN's Human Rights Council, as well as a temporary Security Council spot in 2019 and 2020.

msh/mkg (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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