Turkey will 'not beg' for German troops to stay at Incirlik base
Germany flies support missions from a Turkish air base, but Ankara's latest snub may end the Bundeswehr deployment. Germany is considering new options in the region after its lawmakers were again denied access.
Turkey's foreign minister said Thursday that Germany was welcome to withdraw its troops from Incirlik air base if it desired.
"If they want to leave, let's just say goodbye," Mevlut Cavusoglu told broadcaster NTV. "That's up to them and we won't beg."
Cavusoglu was responding to comments from German politicians who had raised the prospect of withdrawing troops from the base in southern Turkey after a German parliamentary delegation was once again blocked from visiting Bundeswehr soldiers stationed there.
The German government said it was considering alternatives in Jordan, Cyprus or Kuwait. It has more than 250 troops stationed at Incirlik alongside Tornado reconnaissance jets and a refueling plane that are flown as part of the international coalition against the so-called "Islamic State."
NATO stays clear
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel asked the US to help defuse the spat between the two NATO allies. All three countries are NATO members and will attend a summit in Brussels next week.
Berlin accused Turkey of blackmailing Germany after it granted asylum to a group of Turkish soldiers who allegedly took part in last year's failed coup.
"If it is not possible to work normally at Incirlik - and this includes visits by German parliament lawmakers - then we will have to look for alternatives," Gabriel told German newspaper "Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung." "I can only hope that the Turkish government will change its mind in the coming days. Otherwise, the parliament will no longer let our soldiers go to Turkey."
More than 250 Bundeswehr troops are stationed at the base, which is used to fly support missions in Syria
Cavusoglu used the interview to fire back, saying it was no different to a series of decisions by German local authorities to prevent him and other Turkish ministers from holding rallies before Turkey's April 16 referendum on expanding presidential powers.
"If what we are doing is blackmail, then what was that?" he said, referring to Gabriel's comments.
Cavusoglu said Gabriel's remarks were "disrespectful" as Turkish and German officials worked to improve relations. He said Gabriel had spoken differently in private, suggesting the minister was using the dispute for political gain ahead of September elections in Germany.
The Bundestag is due to debate a potential move on Thursday evening, although the ruling grand coalition blocked a vote on the matter.
Erdogan: EU made Turkey 'crawl'
The ties between Germany and Turkey devolved heavily in recent years, with other European countries also trading blows with the increasingly authoritarian regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
On Thursday, the Turkish president said that his country was "made to crawl" at the gates of the EU, commenting on Ankara's 54-year-long efforts to join the European bloc.
"Are we supposed to keep begging and ask them to let us in?" he told business leaders in Istanbul.
Erdogan specifically criticized the growing number of chapters needed to discuss the membership, saying that the move was "treacherously anti-Turkey." He also warned that the Turks will "take care of ourselves" if treated unjustly by the EU.