German president: Moving troops to Jordan was 'right choice'

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German president: Moving troops to Jordan was 'right choice'
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, center left, inspects groceries in a supermarket in the Azraq camp for Syrian refugees, 100 kilometers (62 mi) east of Amman, Jordan, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. German president says moving German troops from Turkey to Jordan as part of an international military campaign against Islamic State extremists was “the right choice.” (AP Photo/Sam McNeil)

AZRAQ AIR BASE, Jordan (AP) — Germany’s president said Monday that moving German troops from Turkey to Jordan as part of an international military campaign against Islamic State extremists was “the right choice.”

Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke after meeting with the German contingent of nearly 300 troops at an air base in northeastern Jordan. Germany carries out reconnaissance and refueling missions over Syria and Iraq, where IS once held large areas.

Steinmeier told soldiers that the battle against IS has been successful, but that their service is still needed to combat remnants of the extremist group and to keep them from resurrecting it.

He said soldiers told him they felt welcome and were working in good conditions. “So the right choice was definitely made,” he said, referring to the move to Jordan.

Germany moved troops from Turkey to Jordan last year, after Turkey restricted access to the soldiers, including visits by parliamentarians.

Earlier Monday, he visited the nearby Azraq camp, home to about 36,000 Syrian refugees.

The president said he believes that a large-scale return of Syrian refugees to the war-ravaged nation isn’t possible yet and the international community will have to keep supporting the displaced.

He singled out Germany’s role, saying a recent improvement in providing refugees with the essentials was partly due to significant aid from his country. Germany is the second largest donor country to Jordan, in terms of humanitarian and development aid, after the United States.

He also praised Jordan for hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Asked about a series of restrictive Jordanian refugee policies, he said critics should keep in mind that the kingdom shoulders a disproportionately large burden.

“Yes, much can be improved,” he said. “Much needs to be done through international aid. But I believe it’s not justified to come with big complaints against Jordan.”

Jordan sealed its border with Syria in 2016, after a cross-border car bomb attack. The closure left tens of thousands of displaced Syrians stranded in harsh conditions in a remote area of the desert, with only intermittent access to aid supplies. Rights groups have also said that Jordan has forcibly deported hundreds of refugees.