NATO chief in talks with Germany, Turkey over Incirlik dispute

NATO head Jens Stoltenberg has said he is focused on finding a solution between Germany and Turkey on the issue of visiting rights to the strategic Incirlik air base. Berlin has threatened to withdraw German troops.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has told German daily newspaper Bild that he was in contact with military allies Germany and Turkey in an effort to find a solution on the issue of visiting rights to a strategic Turkish air base where German soldiers are stationed.

For the second time in the past year, Turkey has denied German lawmakers access to the Incirlik air base, where roughly 250 German troops are deployed to assist a US-led coalition against the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) militant group.

Berlin has threatened to relocate its soldiers if Turkey does not provide access to the parliamentarians, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying authorities are assessing alternatives to host the Bundeswehr deployment.

Karte Türkei Adana Incirlik ENGLISCH

Troop withdrawal?

Authorities have considered Jordan, Cyprus and Kuwait as suitable alternatives to deploy the German troops. Jordan and Kuwait are NATO partners and form part of the anti-IS coalition.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said last week that she spoke with Jordanian authorities, adding that they appear willing to host the deployment.

However, Stoltenberg declined to comment on the possibility of the withdrawal, telling Bild there is no use in answering hypothetical questions.

Turkey denied access to the base in response to Germany's decision to grant asylum to Turkish military personnel. Ankara has accused the Turkish soldiers, which reportedly included two generals, of supporting the failed coup that attempted to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July 2016.

German lawmakers have threatened to actively pursue the withdrawal if Merkel is unable to persuade Turkey during a NATO summit slated for later this week.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

ls/cmk (AP, dpa)

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