German President Horst Koehler has quit following controversial remarks about Germany’s military operations abroad.
On returning from a visit to Afghanistan, Koehler suggested in an interview earlier this month that Germany would be justified in taking military action to defend its economic interests.
Many on the German left called for Koehler to step down over his comments. On Monday, he finally bowed to that pressure.
“I regret that my comments on this difficult and important issue for our country have led to misunderstandings,” he said in his resignation speech.
“The criticism goes so far to suggest I supported deployments by the German army which are not covered by the constitution. This criticism is completely unjustified,” the former president added.
Koehler’s comments caused a storm in Germany. 65 years after the Second World War, the country remains sensitive to military issues and its constitution only allows force to be used in self-defence.
It is the first time an incumbent German president has resigned from the largely ceremonial role.
Koehler was just one year into a second five-year term.
His duties have now been temporarily assumed by the president of Germany’s upper house of parliament.