Germany likely to pull troops out of Incirlik air base
The Berlin government is mulling moving its troops out of Turkey's Incirlik air base after a second snub by Ankara. A German political delegation was denied approval to visit Bundeswehr soldiers at the military facility.
Wolfgang Hellmich, the chairman of the Bundestag Defense Committee, told the German news agency dpa "we're not going to be blackmailed" by the Ankara government after a second German parliamentary delegation was prevented from visiting Turkey’s Incirlik facility. The air base is being used in the international fightback against so-called "Islamic State" (IS) militants.
A decision on where to move the Tornado units is likely to be made in the next few weeks, with Jordan seen as a favorite, sources from the Bundestag committee said.
Turkey's latest snub follows Germany's decision to grant asylum to a number of Turkish military officers, who faced persecution following Turkey's failed coup on July 15 last year, according to dpa.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Turkey's latest move "unfortunate" in remarks to reporters in Berlin earlier in the day.
"The Bundeswehr is a parliamentary army and this makes it absolutely necessary for our lawmakers to have access to our soldiers," Merkel said.
Turkey refused last year to grant German MPs access to the air base, only relenting in October after months of waiting.
The reason given then was that Germany had recognized the crimes committed by Ottoman Turks against Armenians in 1915 as constituting genocide.
Relations between Turkey and Germany have been in a downward spiral in recent months, with many German lawmakers outraged at what they see as flagrant repression of freedoms during Ankara's post-coup crackdown. Dozens of journalists have been imprisoned - including the German-Turkish writer Deniz Yucel - and authorities have carried out mass sackings and arrests of public officials.
Ankara was also incensed by Berlin's refusal to allow Turkish ministers permission to attend political rallies aimed at Turkish voters living in Germany in support of a referendum granting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan greatly extended powers. Many observers see Erdogan's referendum success as a further step toward establishing an autocracy in Turkey.
Bundeswehr is key partner
Germany currently has several Tornado surveillance aircraft and a refueling plane deployed at the Incirlik military base in southwestern Turkey. The jets are part of the international coalition carrying out aerial attacks on IS positions in Iraq and Syria. Some 260 German military personnel are stationed there.
mm/jm (dpa, Reuters)