World Germany explores alternatives to Turkey's Incirlik air base

Germany explores alternatives to Turkey's Incirlik air base
Germany's Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen addresses her army's Counter Islamic State contingent at Incirlik airbase in the southern city of Adana, Turkey, July 1, 2016. (Photo: Bundeswehr/Reuters)

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – As relations between Ankara and Berlin deteriorated, Germany began looking for alternatives to the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey in at least three other Middle Eastern countries.

Although there were no concrete plans to move German soldiers, about 250 at Incirlik, the Defense Ministry was exploring Jordan, Kuwait, and Cyprus at Parliament’s request for a possible future military withdrawal from Turkey reported the daily Bild on Friday.

The Kurdistan Region, whose Erbil airport acts as a key logistical support base for the US-led Coalition forces in the fight against the Islamic State (IS), was not among the options for Germans.

Still, such a development was “not yet foreseeable,” said a Ministry official the Bild did not name.

Turkey’s leadership had insistently accused Germany of “harboring terrorists and supporting terrorism,” in the last few weeks in a confrontation with the leading European Union (EU) member.

Disputes stem from the Syrian refugee crisis overflowing Germany and rising authoritarianism in Turkey targeting dissenters including thousands of Kurdish journalists and politicians imprisoned.

Germany has Tornado jets, reconnaissance aircrafts, and at least one stratotanker at Incirlik but does not participate in bombing runs against IS targets in Syria and Iraq.

Chancellor Angela Merkel recently ruled out any prospects of moving the military from Turkey stating “all was well at Incirlik” according to the Germany weekly Die Zeit’s website.

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen flew two times into Incirlik in 2016.

Her last visit was to her troops there a fortnight before a rogue clique within the Turkish Army attempted the unsuccessful July 15 coup against their government.

A delegation of German lawmakers though was repeatedly denied access to Incirlik over their Parliament’s declaration of the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottomans a “genocide.”

Incirlik base was one of the theaters the putschists operated from, flying aerial refueling jets for warplanes that bombed critical targets at the Turkish capital of Ankara, including the Parliament and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s palace.

Turkish authorities subsequently cut all power lines to Incirlik and imposed a ban on Coalition flights there. The Base’s Turkish Commander General Bekir Ercan Van was arrested and jailed two days later.

The Turkish Government opened Incirlik to anti-IS operations only in July 2015 after time-consuming negotiations with the US.

Last month, an American national security site, Defense One, said the US should get ready to walk away from Incirlik.

The site also advocated building a new airfield in the Kurdistan Region as a “best solution,” an idea backed by the DC-based think tank Bipartisan Policy Center.

 

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany