Germany will deploy over 1,200 soldiers in the Middle East as part of the UN force aimed at keeping the peace between Israel and Hezbollah, according to a news report.
The French and Italians have already pledged thousands of troops
Berlin has decided to send over 1,200 soldiers to the Middle East, according to Der Spiegel newsmagazine. Thus, the German contingent would be the third-largest of an EU country, after Italy and France.
The German government has so far refused to give concrete numbers for its deployment.
"The dimensions can not yet be determined exactly," Christian Schmidt, parliamentary undersecretary in the defense ministry, told public broadcaster ZDF in response to Der Spiegel's report. "But a German portion will certainly be part of the 7,000 European soldiers."
He added that humanitarian aid in particular was being considered.
European Union countries pledged on Friday to contribute up to 7,000 of the 15,000 troops intended to bolster the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) that is meant to help enforce the ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah. Italy has already said it would send 3,000 soldiers and France offered 2,000 troops for UNIFIL, which currently numbers 2,000.
Livni in Berlin
Merkel and Steinmeier meet Livni in Berlin Monday
Negotiations with the UN about the peacekeepers' mandate have nearly been completed, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper on Monday. He said that the result appeared to be "to our satisfaction.
"The UN mandate must be so clear that we can estimate what situations the Bundeswehr (Germany's armed forces) would possibly face," Steinmeier said.
Steinmeier and Chancellor Angela Merkel were set to meet Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Monday in Berlin to discuss the UN mission. Israel's government has pressed for the peacekeepers to be deployed quickly.
Germany has said it would be willing to send marines to support UNIFIL. The German soldiers are meant to patrol a 225-kilometer (140-mile) stretch of Lebanese coastline.
Mandate with teeth
Germany has ruled out sending ground troops in favor of marines
"The German soldiers must be able to go on board a ship suspected of smuggling weapons also against the captain's will," Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung weekly on Sunday.
Social Democratic Party leader Kurt Beck also called for a robust mandate for the German peacekeepers. The German force must not be a "toothless tiger" in the region.
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