German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, arrives Aug. 13 for a weekly meeting of the German cabinet at the chancellery in Berlin. (John MacDougall / AFP)
BERLIN — German air force planes will deliver humanitarian aid to northern Iraq on Friday, media reported, as Chancellor Angela Merkel said Berlin was also considering sending weapons to help the embattled country.
Four German Transall C-160 military transporters, carrying 36 tons of mostly medical and food supplies, will fly via Turkey to the Kurdish city of Arbil, reported national news agency DPA.
Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said this week that Germany may also send non-lethal military hardware such as armored vehicles, helmets, security vests and night-vision gear.
Many prominent lawmakers have demanded that Germany also aid the embattled Iraqi state and Kurdish forces in the north with weapons to help them push back an onslaught by jihadist militants.
Merkel told a local newspaper that “the suffering of the people in northern Iraq, of the Yazidis, Christians and others, at the hands of the terror group Islamic State is appalling.”
“Stopping the advance of these extremists and helping those in need is a task for the entire international community,” she was quoted as saying by the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung.
“This requires humanitarian aid and the possible supply of equipment for those who are fighting against the terrorists.”
Germany, a major arms manufacturer, as a rule does not export weapons into war zones, but Merkel pointed out that German law allows for exceptions in cases that impact national security.
“When it comes to arms exports, the government always has some political and legal leeway, and if necessary we will exhaust it,” she said.
“Here we will coordinate closely with our partners and, above all, with the United States.”
She added that “German security interests are a factor in our deliberations, but no decisions have been taken yet.”
Germany, struggling with the legacy of its World War II aggression, has practiced restraint in foreign military engagements and usually been reluctant to send troops or weapons into foreign war zones.
A poll by the Emnid institute conducted on Wednesday found that 71 percent of respondents opposed the idea of German arms shipments to Iraq, while 87 percent favored sending humanitarian aid and 68 percent supported sending non-lethal military aid.