2019.10.10 16:30

Lithuanian MoD briefs parliament on possible military deployment to Syria

Vaidotas Beniušis, Jūratė Skėrytė, BNS2019.10.10 16:30

Lithuania's Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis briefed members of the Lithuanian parliament on Wednesday about a possible troop deployment to Syria, three sources told BNS.

The meeting behind closed doors between the defence minister and the Seimas leadership was not pre-announced and held in a secure briefing room.

Deputy Speaker of the Seimas Arvydas Nekrošius told BNS that the minister "submitted information to the Board of the Seimas about military missions than need the Seimas' mandate".

Approached by BNS, the minister and MPs refrained from commenting on what missions were discussed, but three well-informed sources confirmed that possible troop deployment to Syria was also discussed during the meeting.

The Lithuanian government and the military are currently considering the United States' request to send troops to Syria to join the Operation Inherent Resolve against the Islamic State. Lithuania has already contributed to the mission in Iraq where six army instructors are training Iraqi troops.

However, the request was made before Turkey's invasion into Northern Syria began on Wednesday.

Lithuania's Defence Minister Karoblis said on Thursday there were no plans for a mission of Lithuanian troops over the upcoming months, and it could take place only after all security measures were taken and only in territories outside Turkish and Russian military influence.

"To be honest, the launch of Turkey's ongoing operation in northeastern Syria complicates the situation, and swift stabilising decisions are necessary," Karoblis told journalists in Rukla, central Lithuania.

Nevertheless, the minister underlined that Lithuania "has to respond to allies' requests" to fight the Islamic State group as it posed threat to the Western civilization.

Lithuania is also considering sending its special operations troops as one of the options under consideration. The discussions in Lithuania mainly center on whether sending troops to Syria would be in line with international law amid the absence of approval from the local government.

In an interview with BNS in September, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda said all legal aspects should be taken into consideration before making any decision.

"It's a premature issue as we need to evaluate all aspects, evaluate the international law, and only then make weighed decisions," the president said in the interview on September 6.

The mission's supporters say Lithuania should show solidarity with the United States as Lithuania's national security depends on relations with the country.

The Lithuanian parliament annually endorses the mandate for sending Lithuanian troops to international operations. Under the existing mandate, Lithuania can send up to 40 troops to the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS. The Seimas resolution does not include specific countries – neither Iraq, nor Syria.

Lithuania is currently participating in 11 international missions. The country's defence council earlier decided to send an undisclosed number of personnel to the Strait of Hormuz near Iran, however, the parliament's approval is still due.

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