Miércoles, 17 Octubre, 2018

Turkey blocks visit to German soldiers at air base

Germany has more than 200 troops stationed at the Incirlik airbase in Turkey flying Tornado surveillance missions over Syria and refuelling flights for partner nations battling IS jihadists Germany slams Turkey's ban on MPs visiting NATO base
Eleena Tovar | 15 May, 2017, 19:55

The Defence Ministry has already vetted alternative military bases for its soldiers in Jordan, Cyprus and Kuwait and a decision is expected in the coming weeks.

Berlin described as "unacceptable" Ankara's latest ban on a visit to the Incirlik base in southern Turkey, used by global coalition fighting the ISIS group.

Last year, Turkey refused to allow access to the airbase to a German parliamentary delegation.

Berlin on Monday slammed Ankara's refusal to allow German lawmakers to visit a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation base near Syria and warned it could move its troops elsewhere.

Martin Schäfer, the German foreign ministry's spokesman, said Turkey's move was "completely unacceptable".

Since 2015, around 240 German troops, six high-tech Tornado surveillance jets and a tanker aircraft have been stationed in Incirlik Air Base, providing support for anti-Daesh operations.

Speaking at a Monday news conference, Merkel said it was essential for lawmakers to be able to visit the more than 250 soldiers serving at the base. Some 260 German military personnel are stationed at Incirlik. He said Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel plans to raise the issue at a meeting with allies in Washington this week, AP reported.

German government spokesman Stefan Seibert said Berlin would consider alternative places to station the soldiers. Relations between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies were strained in the run-up to the April 16 referendum, when Germany banned Turkish politicians from addressing rallies of expatriate Turks, citing public safety concerns. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Berlin of "Nazi-like" tactics.

The recent move to block the MPs' visit came shortly after Berlin's decision to grant asylum for a number of Turkish Army officers who fled the country after a failed coup attempt last July, which strained relations even further.

In 2016, Turkey banned German lawmakers from visiting the air base for months as a response to German parliament declaring the 1915 killings of Armenians under Ottoman rule a "genocide", which term Ankara denies.