German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday that Germany may move its soldiers to another country if Ankara does not grant permission to members of the German parliament’s defense committee to visit staff currently serving in a NATO mission at İncirlik Airbase in southern Turkey.
Speaking at a news conference, Merkel said it was essential for lawmakers to be able to visit the more than 250 soldiers serving at Turkey’s İncirlik Airbase, where they are involved in a NATO mission targeting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria.
“We will continue to talk with Turkey, but in parallel we will have to explore other ways of fulfilling our mandate,” Merkel said. “That means looking at alternatives to İncirlik, and one alternative among others is Jordan.”
TURKEY BLOCKS GERMAN LAWMAKERS
Merkel’s remarks came shortly after Turkey blocked a group of German lawmakers on Monday from visiting German troops at İncirlik Airbase as it was not deemed appropriate at this time. A group of German lawmakers has been blocked from visiting troops stationed at Turkey’s İncirlik air base, officials said on Monday, a move that could reignite a row between the NATO allies over Berlin’s access to the base.
The lawmakers were denied a visit to the base as it was not deemed appropriate at this time, sources in Turkey’s foreign ministry told Reuters, without elaborating. Some 250 German troops are stationed at İncirlik as part of the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in neighboring Syria, according to the German armed forces.
A spokesman for the German foreign minister said it was “completely unacceptable” for Turkey to keep German lawmakers from visiting their own soldiers.
“A visit by lawmakers must be made possible,” Martin Schaefer said, adding that Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel would raise the issue with colleagues from other NATO governments in Washington on Tuesday.
German government spokesman Stefan Seibert said Berlin would consider alternative places to station the soldiers.
Relations between the NATO allies were strained in the run-up to Turkey’s April 16 referendum, when Germany banned Turkish politicians from addressing rallies of expatriate Turks, citing public safety concerns.
Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused Berlin of “Nazi-like” tactics. A narrow majority of Turks backed the referendum to change the constitution and grant Erdoğan sweeping executive powers. Germany and other Western allies have voiced concern about what they fear is growing authoritarianism in Turkey.
Last year Turkey banned German lawmakers from visiting the base for months in response to a resolution in the General parliament declaring the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a genocide, a term Ankara rejects. (SCF with turkishminute.com) May 15, 2017