Turkey agrees to German MPs visit of air base: Berlin
Turkey has agreed to let German lawmakers visit soldiers serving at an air base in southern Turkey next month after Ankara refused a visit there in July.
A letter from German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel to the head of Germany’s parliamentary defense committee showed that administration of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had agreed to a NATO proposal for a visit to the Incirlik base near Konya on September 8.
“The Turkish foreign minister has agreed to this proposal,” Gabriel wrote.
Under the plan, NATO’s Deputy General-Secretary Rose Gottemoeller would lead the delegation and take up to seven members of the parliamentary committee with her.
Details were still being hammered out about which lawmakers would be included in the visit.
Turkish government had earlier objected particularly strenuously to participation by members of Germany’s far-left Left party, whom Ankara accuses of supporting terrorists.
Ankara also refused a visit to Konya planned for mid-July.
Repeated refusals by Ankara to let lawmakers visit German soldiers at the base in Turkey made Berlin relocate those troops to Jordan.
German defense authorities finally ordered the start of withdrawal of soldiers from the base after the two countries failed to settle disputes on how Berlin could access the base.
Germany’s armed forces are under parliamentary control and Berlin insists lawmakers must have access to them.
Turkey’s refusal to grant access to German lawmakers came after Berlin blocked visits and speeches by senior Turkish officials to members of Turkish diaspora in Germany ahead of an April referendum in Turkey. Turkey is also critical of Germany over the country’s alleged support for suspected coup plotters and outlawed Kurdish militants.
The ongoing tension between the two countries heightened after Turkey arrested 10 human rights activists last month, including a German, in a security crackdown.
On Monday, President Erdogan again accused Germany of assisting terrorists by not handing over suspects wanted by Turkish authorities.
Turkey and Germany have been locked in a number of diplomatic disputes, including Turkey’s way of handling the aftermaths of a failed coup in July last year, which has sparked massive criticism in Germany.
Turkey-Germany relations laso worsened soon after a chain of diplomatic rows. Berlin has severely criticized Ankara for a widespread crackdown that began in the wake of the coup attempt and has so far affected hundreds of thousands of people.
Turkey, for its part, severely criticized German authorities’ decision to prevent a number of Turkish ministers from holding rallies to secure a ‘Yes’ vote in the April 16 referendum on expanding the powers of Turkish President Erdogan, citing public safety concerns.
Berlin seems to be more willing to repair ties with Ankara in the face of the current row. Turkey is perceived by Germany as an important country, in part because of some three million ethnic Turks in the European country, by far the largest Turkish diaspora community in the world, after a “gust worker” program initiated in the 1960s and 1970s.