Turkey blocks German lawmaker visit to soldiers at air base
BERLIN (AP) — Turkey has blocked a request for German lawmakers to visit their country’s soldiers at the Incirlik air base, the German government said Monday, increasing the possibility that it might relocate planes supporting the campaign against the Islamic State group.
Germany has about 270 troops at the base. The refusal was communicated to Germany’s ambassador over the weekend, Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer told reporters.
He said Turkey indicated the refusal was tied to Germany’s decision to grant asylum to Turkish soldiers accused by Ankara of participating in last year’s failed coup.
“This is unfortunate, and we have made this clear through various channels,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said.
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel plans to raise the issue at a meeting with allies in Washington this week, Schaefer said.
Defense Ministry spokesman Jens Flosdorff said the military is examining moving Germany’s Tornado reconnaissance jets and a refueling plane from Incirlik to another country.
Merkel reinforced that point, noting that “one possible alternative, among others, is Jordan.”
The Incirlik refusal, which follows a similar standoff last year, is the latest in a long line of irritants in Turkish-German relations.
Among other recent events, Berlin is pushing — so far in vain — for consular access to a German journalist, Mesale Tolu, who was detained in Turkey. It also has said that it wouldn’t allow voting in Germany on a possible Turkish referendum on reintroducing the death penalty.
Last summer, Turkey refused to allow German lawmakers to visit personnel stationed at Incirlik following a German parliament vote to label as genocide the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a century ago. Turkey relented after the German government stressed that the resolution wasn’t legally binding.
German military missions abroad need parliamentary approval, typically on an annual basis.
“The Bundeswehr is a parliamentary army, and so it is absolutely necessary that there be possibilities for our lawmakers to visit their soldiers,” Merkel said.
The parliamentary leader of the Social Democrats, Merkel’s junior governing partners, said the latest refusal was “a drastic development.”
“Under these circumstances, the Bundeswehr cannot stay at Incirlik,” Thomas Oppermann said.