Wednesday, 15 August, 2018

Germany to pull troops from Turkish base in spat with Ankara

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu attend a news conference in Ankara Turkey German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu attend a news conference in Ankara Thomson Reuters
Lance Thomas | 08 June, 2017, 04:42

Taking a word from Hillary Clinton's dictionary, earlier this month, Merkel called Turkeys stance on visits to Incirlik “deplorable” and warned Germany may move the warplanes based there to a location outside Turkey, possibly Jordan.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet Wednesday approved a plan for the withdrawal of Bundeswehr troops from the Incirlik airbase in southeastern Turkey over a diplomatic row between the two countries, AzVision.az reports citing the Turkish media.

Even though Germany's cabinet has recommended withdrawing their troops from Incirlik, parliament will have the last say.

"Incirlik is a good airbase for the fight against Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS], but we can not accept not being able to visit our soldiers", German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday, as cited by Deutsche Welle.

Redeploying to Jordan will take time, including an outage of two to three months for Tornado surveillance planes that Germany pledged to the USA -led coalition after the Paris terror attacks in 2015, von der Leyen said. Germany is Turkey's biggest trading partner, with German imports expanding nearly 7 percent past year to more than 15 billion euros ($17 billion), according to Federal Statistics Office data.

This time, Ankara was protesting the fact that Berlin has offered political asylum to Turkish nationals accused of complicity in the July 2016 attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Some 280 troops and several Tornado fighter jets, which are used for reconnaissance missions in Syria, are now stationed at Incirlik. However, it stressed it wants to minimize any disruption to the US-led coalition operation against ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS). German armed forces are subordinated to parliament, not the government, meaning lawmakers have oversight of the troops.

Ties between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies have been strained since the failed coup in Turkey, and tensions have worsened over multiple issues including a referendum campaign to expand Erdogan's powers.

"Turkey and Germany are going through a troubled period", Gabriel said.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel visited Ankara on Monday in attempt to settle disagreements between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies. He said he wanted to avoid further hurting ties with Turkey and pushing it towards Russian Federation.

"If Germany takes positive steps, we will always take two (positive) steps".

A previous standoff over Incirlik past year was eventually resolved. Germany gave political asylum to several Turkish military personnel and their family members, who were stationed at North Atlantic Treaty Organisation facilities in Germany and faced prosecution in their home country. "But we can not ignore the current situation", he said.

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