Middle East Germany threatens withdrawal from Turkey's Incirlik Base

Germany threatens withdrawal from Turkey's Incirlik Base
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen chats with soldiers during a visit of the German Armed Forces Bundeswehr at the air base in Incirlik, Turkey, January 21, 2016. (Photo: Reuters)

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) - Berlin was looking for alternatives to the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, said Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday as Ankara denied German lawmakers permission to visit their country's troops stationed at the base.

Speaking at a news conference, Merkel said it was essential for lawmakers to be able to visit the more than 250 soldiers serving at Incirlik where they are involved in the air campaign against the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria and Iraq, reported Reuters.

Merkel's comments came as Turkish officials confirmed reports that they did not grant a German defense delegation access to military staff at Incirlik.

"We will continue to talk with Turkey, but in parallel, we will have to explore other ways of fulfilling our mandate," Merkel said.

"That means looking at alternatives to Incirlik, and one alternative among others is Jordan," she added, clarifying to Turkey that Germany had options if Ankara continued to be uncooperative.

Citing unnamed diplomatic sources, Turkey's state-funded Anadolu Agency said that authorities did not find it "appropriate currently" for Germans to visit Incirlik.

There was no other explanation from Turkish officials for not allowing German lawmakers to see the Bundeswehr troops.

The current Incirlik crisis between the two NATO countries is the continuation of a series of political and diplomatic disputes.

Last week reports emerged that Germany granted refugee status to some Turkish soldiers and diplomats who are wanted by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government which accuses them of having a role in the failed military coup attempt in 2016.

At least 262 Turkish diplomats and army personnel have applied for asylum in Germany, according to an April statement by the German Interior Ministry.

Erdogan has on various occasions accused Berlin of "harboring terrorists," for refusing to extradite the wanted numbering in hundreds, a majority of them Turkey alleges to be putschists or member of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

At least 5 thousand 166 Turkish citizens had applied for asylum in the first 11 months of last year, some 80 percent of them Kurds, said German government in December 2016.

Last year another delegation of German lawmakers was repeatedly denied access to Incirlik over their Parliament’s declaration as a genocide of the systematic massacres and deportations in 1915 of the Armenian people by the Ottoman authorities.


Editing by Ava Homa