Germany seeks to block NATO summit in Turkey: report

Germany and other NATO allies have tried to prevent Turkey from hosting next year's NATO summit, according to reports. Officials allegedly wanted to avoid the impression that NATO supports Turkey's "internal policy."

Germany, France, the Netherlands and Denmark have reportedly led a drive to block next year's NATO leaders summit from taking place in Turkey, according to a report published by German daily Die Welt on Wednesday. The newspaper said that 18 EU nations and Canada agreed with the decision to prevent the meeting from taking place in Istanbul.  

Turkey allegedly offered to host the summit slated for 2018 in Istanbul during the alliance's 2016 meeting in Warsaw. However, NATO nations at that time agreed to postpone the decision to a later date, the German daily said.

NATO defense ministers are expected to make a final decision when they meet in June. According to the report, the favored proposal envisions the meeting at NATO's new headquarters in Brussels.

Since a failed coup to overthrow the Turkish government, Ankara has launched a massive crackdowntargeting journalists, teachers, soldiers and judges.

"We do not want to enhance Turkey's international credentials and we want to avoid the impression that NATO supports the Turkish government's internal policy," high-ranking NATO diplomats said, according to Die Welt.

However, NATO deputy spokesman Piers Cazalet told DW that member states have not yet taken a decision on the "venue or time of the 2018 NATO summit."

"At the meeting of NATO leaders last week, Turkey made an offer to host one of our next summits, although not necessarily next year," Cazalet said. "Having a full-fledged summit at the new headquarters in Brussels is also an option. These options are not mutually exclusive.

Politics

Germany's role in NATO

West Germany officially joined the trans-Atlantic alliance in 1955. However, it wasn't until after reunification in 1990 that the German government considered "out of area" missions led by NATO. From peacekeeping to deterrence, Germany's Bundeswehr has since been deployed in several countries across the globe in defense of its allies.

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Bosnia: Germany's first NATO mission

In 1995, Germany participated in its first "out of area" NATO mission as part of a UN-mandated peacekeeping mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. During the deployment, German soldiers joined other NATO member forces to provide security in the wake of the Bosnian War. The peacekeeping mission included more than 60,000 troops from NATO's member states and partners.

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Keeping the peace in Kosovo

Since the beginning of the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, some 8,500 German soldiers have been deployed in the young country. In 1999, NATO launched an air assault against Serbian forces accused of carrying out a brutal crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists and their civilian supporters. Approximately 550 Bundeswehr troops are still stationed in Kosovo.

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Patrolling the Aegean Sea

In 2016, Germany deployed its combat support ship "Bonn" to lead a NATO mission backed by the EU in the Aegean Sea. The mission included conducting "reconnaissance, monitoring and surveillance of illegal crossings" in Greek and Turkish territorial waters at the height of the migration crisis. Germany, Greece and Turkey had requested assistance from the trans-Atlantic alliance.

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More than a decade in Afghanistan

In 2003, Germany's parliament voted to send Bundeswehr troops to Afghanistan in support of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Germany became the third-largest contributor of troops and led the Regional Command North. More than 50 German troops were killed during the mission. Nearly a thousand soldiers are still deployed in Afghanistan as part of Resolute Support.

Politics

German tanks in Lithuania

Forming part of NATO's "enhanced forward presence" in the Baltic states, 450 Bundeswehr soldiers have been deployed to Lithuania so far in 2017. The battalion-size battlegroups there are led by Germany, Canada, the UK and US to reinforce collective defense on the alliance's eastern flank. It forms the "biggest reinforcement of Alliance collective defence in a generation," according to NATO.

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Taking over the leadership

The Bundeswehr is due to take over leadership of NATO's multinational Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) at the start of 2019. The rapid reaction force has been set up to counter potential Russian aggression on the alliance's eastern flank.

Worsening relations

The move effectively marks another twist in relations between Berlin and Ankara, which have seen a notable downturn over the past two years.

Earlier this month, Turkey blocked German lawmakers from visiting a Bundeswehr deployment stationed at Incirlik air base. Ankara said it was in response to Berlin's decision to grant asylum to Turkish military personnel accused of participating in a failed coup to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Since then, Berlin has assessed alternative host countries for the deployment, including Jordan, Kuwait and Cyprus, according to German officials.

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Ahead of a key meeting with Erdogan during last week's NATO summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel threatened to withdraw the German deployment at Incirlik if the two leaders were unable to find a way to move forward.

"I will make it very clear to the Turkish president during our talks that it is indispensable for our soldiers to be able to be visited by members of the German Bundestag, as ours is a parliamentary military," Merkel said.

An eventual decision to withdraw troops was postponed on Wednesday when a parliamentary majority agreed to hold off on a committee vote, reported Christian Thiels, managing editor at German public broadcaster ARD.

More than 250 troops are currently stationed at Incirlik to aid in the US-led coalition against the "Islamic State" militant group, providing reconnaissance and support for the international operation.

Karte Türkei Adana Incirlik ENGLISCH

Incirlik: Alternatives and the issue of withdrawal

Since the dispute kicked off last year, Berlin has assessed alternative host countries for the deployment, including Jordan, Kuwait and Cyprus, according to German officials.

Major Rayk Hähnlein, defense expert at the Berlin-based German Institute for International and Security Affairs, told DW that Jordan's Muwaffaq Salti air base offers the "best alternative" to Incirlik.

He said that several factors, such as the US military operating out of the base, its proximity to the main area of operations in northern Syria and Iraq, and Amman's willingness to host the deployment, make it a suitable choice for the German division stationed at Incirlik.

Some analysts have warned about the potential fallout a withdrawal could have on NATO operations and the US-led coalition against the "Islamic State," especially as the alliance has agreed to formally join the coalition.

But Hähnlein told DW that while a withdrawal would have a "short term impact," especially due to preparations to recapture the "Islamic State" stronghold of Raqqa in Syria, it would not undermine the operation.

"From 2014 to December 2015, the coalition got along without German support as well, so it will overcome the situation," Hähnlein said. "If prepared well and with full support from Jordan and US partners on the Jordanian base, Germany's absence would only be felt for several days or weeks."

Hähnlein warned, however, of withdrawing all German troops from the country, noting that removing the five soldiers stationed in Konya "would be a wrong signal to NATO" since they are key to the AWACS surveillance operation.

When asked about the reported attempts by Germany and other NATO nations to block a NATO leaders summit in Turkey, Hähnlein suggested that it may be too early to comment on the impact.

"But of course, one can question if it is the right signal that Turkey hosts a NATO summit under the current circumstances," Hähnlein said.

Conflicts

Bloodshed by the Bosphorus

A blood covered resident of Istanbul stands near the Bosphorus Bridge. There were clashes between civilians and the army after the military had blocked the bridge. Government sources say that more than 260 people were killed in fighting during the coup attempt.

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Tanks roll through streets

Tanks drove through several cities in the night in a completely surprise move. The Turkish military announced its takeover. The tracked vehicles flattened cars in the streets of Istanbul and Ankara, turning the country into a war zone.

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Lights out in parliament

After the bombing of parliament in Ankara, the building is in ruins. Fighter jets flew low over the capital and had the citizens panicking.

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Who owns the Republic Monument?

The army not only closed the Bosphorus Bridge: it also occupied Taksim Square, a main transportation hub in Istanbul. The soldiers positioned themselves in front of the Republic Monument.

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Icon of resistance

Erdogan supporters also protested on the square. A showdown began when a soldier pointed his gun at a man. The army opened fire on the protesting crowd on the square.

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The calm after the storm

Shirts off their backs: After the failed coup attempt, rebel soldiers laid down their arms on the Bosporus Bridge and fled.

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Put to flight

After the armed forces had surrendered, soldiers tried to get on a bus to flee from the angry masses.

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Cheering crowds

President Tayyip Erdogan returned to Istanbul. Cheering crowds received him at the airport. Erdogan announced that the rebels would pay a heavy price.

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It's over!

Erdogan supporters triumph and wave the Turkish flag after the army's withdrawal. The coup attempt has failed.

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Posing on a tank

Bizarre souvenir: A mother took a picture of her daughter on top of a tank. The tank on the Bosphorus Bridge was surrounded by Turkish police.

NATO values at risk?

The fallout between the two military allies partly stems from concerns for democratic processes in Turkey. While NATO effectively forms a military alliance between its member states, it also forms a political one that seeks to "promote democratic values."

In 2016, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told an audience of students in Georgia that part of what makes NATO stand out from other military alliances is that member states share common values. 

"Democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of the media, independence of the judiciary (and) protection of minorities: these are the values that unite us. They are the values NATO has defended since its foundation in 1949," Stoltenberg said.

However, although member states have not used NATO as a medium through which to voice concerns over Turkey's crackdown and its consolidation of power under the presidency, European institutions, including the Council of Europe's Venice Commission, have warned that the country is "on the road to an autocracy."

Teri Schultz in Brussels contributed to this report.