Germany may withdraw troops from Turkey within 2 weeks
Germany, by mid-June, will decide whether to pull out its troops from Turkey after Ankara in a controversial move refused to grant German lawmakers access to a key NATO base on its soil near Syria, an official says.
“We’re still holding talks with the Turkish side about Incirlik [air force base] and we will work on a solution until mid-June,” said an official with the German Foreign Ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, on Sunday.
The latest diplomatic row broke out between the two NATO member states on May 15, when Berlin announced that Ankara had blocked a request for German legislators to visit their country’s troops at the Incirlik air base. German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the time slammed the Turkish government’s decision and described the move as “unacceptable.”
Germany has more than 250 troops deployed to Incirlik, using the airbase for flying Tornado jets over Syria and refueling flights as part of the US-led coalition allegedly battling the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.
On May 16, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim officially unveiled the reason behind Incirlik’s decision, saying Berlin was free to choose Ankara or coup plotters. He referred to Berlin’s move to grant political asylum to military officials and supporters of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed by Ankara for staging the failed coup in July 2016.
German media have reported that over 400 Turkish military personnel, diplomats, judges and other officials and their relatives had sought political asylum in Germany.
Germany, the EU’s most powerful country, later threatened that it might pull out its troops from the base if Ankara kept denying German lawmakers access to the site, a warning that did not have any effect on Ankara’s firm stance.
On May 20, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen even proposed the possibility of moving Incirlik-based German troops to an airbase in Jordan.
Ankara-Berlin relations have deteriorated sharply after a succession of diplomatic rows. Germany has harshly criticized Turkey for a crackdown that unfolded following the coup attempt and affected hundreds of thousands of people.
Ankara, for its part, severely criticized Berlin’s decision to block Turkish ministers from holding rallies to secure a ‘Yes’ vote in the April 16 referendum on expanding the powers of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, citing public safety concerns.
Erdogan, apparently referring to German legislators seeking a visit to Incirlik, has already said that sometimes there are lawmakers who “openly supported terrorists.” The Turkish president said on Saturday that his government would allow the visit if Germany submitted a list of names to Ankara before the move.