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Germany's Gabriel warns Turkey against 'blackmail' over Incirlik base

Germany's foreign minister has said Berlin may pull its troops out of a base in Turkey if lawmakers aren't allowed to visit. The latest spat comes as two Turkish generals reportedly applied for asylum in Frankfurt.

Sigmar Gabriel (picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler)

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel sharply criticized Turkey's decision to block a parliamentary delegation from visiting Bundeswehr soldiers stationed at Turkey's Incirlik base in an interview on Wednesday.

If "the German parliament is to be blackmailed, then the limit of tolerance has been reached," Gabriel told German newspaper the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung.

"I can only hope that the Turkish government will change its mind in the coming days," he said. "Otherwise, the German Bundestag will certainly not leave soldiers in Turkey."

Gabriel noted that if cooperative work is no longer possible out of Incirlik, including members of parliament visiting soldiers on the base, "then we have to consider alternatives."

Possible move to Jordan

On Monday, Turkish authorities blocked a delegation of German lawmakers from accessing the southern Turkish air base. The parliamentarians were attempting to visit the 250 Bundeswehr soldiers stationed there as part of the US-led coalition fighting the militant "Islamic State" (IS) group.

German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that the Defense Ministry was already scoping alternatives to the Incirlik base in Jordan, Kuwait and Cyprus.

Jordan is reportedly the top choice for an alternative base, with the magazine reporting that Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen will personally inspect the site in Jordan this weekend.

Although Berlin is already hunting for an alternate base, Major Rayk Hähnlein, a defense expert at the German Foundation for International and Security Affairs (SWP), told DW that such a move would also have strategic downsides.

"In Incirlik, we use the rescue chain on site, which was provided by the US. The States provide support with ramp space, storage space, hangers and also fuel," Hähnlein said.

He added that German troops also collaborate with forces operating out of Incirlik with transporting materials and personnel.

"These are all things that wouldn't be available at a new location."

Karte Türkei Adana Incirlik ENGLISCH

Turkish generals apply for asylum

The latest move to block members of the Bundestag, the lower house of German parliament, from visiting the air base was ostensibly a response to the German government's decision last week to grant asylum to Turkish military personnel.

The German newspaper Bild reported late on Tuesday night that two more high-ranking members of Turkey's military applied for asylum at the international airport in Frankfurt.

According to Bild, the two men were Turkish generals who were involved in last July's failed military coup.

On Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told his party members that Berlin's decision to accept the asylum applications is "a significant development in the regression of our relations again."

Yildirim said that Germany had to choose between groups Turkey deems terror organizations or strengthening ties with Ankara.

Relations between Germany and Turkey have grown increasingly strained over the last few months and took a nosedive during Turkey's referendum campaign on expanding President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers. Turkish ministers who were campaigning for the "yes" vote were later barred from holding rallies in Germany.

Last year, Ankara blocked German parliamentarians from visiting the Incirlik airbase after the Bundestag passed a resolution declaring the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces as a "genocide."

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Turkey denies Germany access to air base

rs/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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