Wed, May 17, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Germany warns Turkey over access to its troops

RELOCATING:Ankara’s refusal to let German MPs visit German troops stationed in Turkey has Angela Merkel warning that Berlin could move them to another nation

Reuters, ANKARA and BERLIN

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, welcomes French President Emmanuel Macron at the German Chancellery in Berlin on Monday.

Photo: EPA

Germany could move troops now based in Turkey to another country if Ankara persists in denying German lawmakers permission to visit them, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday, highlighting renewed strains between the NATO allies.

About 250 German troops are stationed at Incirlik Air Base, contributing to the US-led mission targeting Islamic State militants in neighboring Syria.

Sources at the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said a visit by German lawmakers would not be appropriate at this time, without elaborating.

Turkey similarly refused access to German lawmakers late last year, though that visit eventually went ahead.

“We will continue to talk with Turkey, but in parallel we will have to explore other ways of fulfilling our mandate,” Merkel told reporters.

“That means looking at alternatives to Incirlik, and one alternative among others is Jordan,” she said.

A German military survey team is to visit Jordan in the coming days to look at potential bases there, government sources said.

Jordan is the preferred site, although facilities in Cyprus and Kuwait are also possible, they said.

For historic reasons and to prevent abuse of power, the Bundeswehr army is controlled by the German parliament, not the government, meaning that lawmakers have the right to inspect its activities, including outside the country.

A spokesman for German Minister for Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel said it was “completely unacceptable” for Turkey to keep members of the parliamentary defense committee from visiting their own soldiers.

The spokesman added that Gabriel would raise the issue with colleagues from other NATO governments in Washington yesterday.

German and NATO military officials still hope to avert a wider rift with Turkey given the importance of NATO facilities there, including a powerful radar that supports the Aegis Ashore missile defense site in Romania.

Moving the German troops from Incirlik could also result in a two-month interruption in the surveillance flights they are now conducting from the Turkish base, a government source said.

The German military has long planned to invest more than 60 million euros (US$66.3 million) to expand housing and equipment at Incirlik, but Turkey has not yet approved the plans.

Relations between Ankara and Berlin deteriorated sharply in the run-up to an April 16 referendum in Turkey on expanding President Tayyip Erdogan’s powers.

Citing public safety concerns, Germany banned Turkish politicians from addressing rallies of expatriate Turks, prompting Erdogan to accuse Berlin of “Nazi-like” tactics.

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