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13:26, 27 June 2017 Tuesday
22:44, 02 March 2015 Monday

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Opposition to Merkel's plans to boost military
Opposition to Merkel's plans to boost military
file photo

Increasing military budget would be wrong answer to current crises, says main opposition Left Party.

World Bulletin / News Desk

Germany’s main opposition Left Party has criticized the plans of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government to boost military expenditure.

Left Party lawmaker Christine Buchholz attacked recent statements by Merkel’s close aide, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, on Monday after Schaeuble claimed Germany would need to increase its military spending over the next few years because of recent international crises.

 Buchholz, the Left Party’s spokeswoman for defense policy, said: "Increasing the defense budget would be a wrong answer to the current crises and it would be at the expense of taxpayers.

"The German armed forces are likely to play a stronger role in asymmetric wars and in the confrontation with Russia."

"This is not only highly dangerous but also highly expensive," she said.

Tank battalion activated

Public opinion in the country has been largely against Germany taking any military role in international conflicts but, in recent months, German government officials have advocated a more active foreign policy supported by military measures.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced last week that, from 2016 onwards, the German armed forces will act under a new strategy and take more responsibility for international "peace and stability."

Von der Leyen told German armed forces magazine Bundeswehr in an interview published Friday that the German Defense Ministry had cancelled plans to phase-out hundreds of its Leopard 2 tanks and would instead activate a new tank battalion and was also reconsidering its policy of military deliveries, modernization projects and reform plans. 

"Instead of phasing out or scrapping the functional Leopard 2 tanks, we should now focus on ways to integrate our still good and available military materials with existing structures," von der Leyen said.

Strong capabilities

During the Cold War, German armed forces focused on developing strong defense capabilities and were equipped with more than 2,000 Leopard 2 tanks.

But after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Leopards lost their significance and a phase-out plan initiated in the early 1990s decreased their number to today's 280.

Von der Leyen underlined the need for increase in defense budget, particularly for the new modernization projects to better equip the armed forces.

Germany, Europe’s economic heavyweight, has the fourth-largest defense budget within NATO.

The German parliament has allocated €32.3 billion for the Defense Ministry for the fiscal year 2015.

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Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland
Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland

Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades said Monday he hopes to clinch a reunification deal laying out a new security blueprint for the divided island during a crunch summit in Switzerland this week. Anastasiades will attend United Nations-backed talks at the Alpine Crans-Montana ski resort Wednesday with "complete determination and goodwill... to achieve a desired solution", he said in a statement. He said he hopes to "abolish the anachronistic system of guarantees and intervention rights", with a deal providing for the withdrawal of the Turkish army. The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece. Turkey maintains around 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus. The so-called guarantor powers of Turkey, Britain and Greece retain the right to intervene militarily on the island. Greek and Turkish Cypriots are at odds over a new security blueprint, but their leaders are under pressure to reach an elusive peace deal. "I am going to Switzerland to participate in the Cyprus conference, with the sole aim and intent of solving the Cyprus problem," Anastasiades said. Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci is also set to attend the summit, which is expected to last at least 10 days. Greece, Turkey and Britain will send envoys along with an observer from the European Union. UN-led talks on the island hit a wall in late May after the sides failed to agree terms to advance toward a final summit. Unlocking the security question would allow Anastasiades and Akinci to make unprecedented concessions on core issues. But they have major differences on what a new security blueprint should look like. Anastasiades's internationally recognised government, backed by Athens, seeks an agreement to abolish intervention rights, with Turkish troops withdrawing from the island on a specific timeline. Turkish Cypriots and Ankara argue for some form of intervention rights and a reduced number of troops remaining in the north. Turkish Cypriots want the conference to focus on broader issues of power-sharing, property rights and territory for the creation of a new federation. Much of the progress to date has been based on strong personal rapport between Anastasiades and Akinci, leader of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. But that goodwill has appeared frayed in the build-up to their meeting in Switzerland. The Greek Cypriot presidential election next February has also complicated the landscape, as has the government's search for offshore oil and gas, which Ankara argues should be suspended until the negotiations have reached an outcome.