German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has warned that Berlin could allow the movement of troops out of a base in southern Turkey if Ankara keeps denying German lawmakers access to the site.
Gabriel said on Wednesday that if German lawmakers were not allowed a visit to Incirlik base, where some 250 German troops are stationed, the parliament in Berlin may decide to move them out of Turkey.
“I can only hope that the Turkish government changes its mind in the coming days. Otherwise, the German parliament will certainly not leave the soldiers in Turkey,” Gabriel said in an interview with local media.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Tuesday that Berlin might move the troops elsewhere. Even the opposition, including the Greens and Left parties, has called for a vote in the parliament, also known as the Bundestag, to pull the soldiers out.
Some media reports have hinted that the troops, who have been in Incirlik as part of a US-led coalition in the so-called fight against the Daesh Takfiri terrorists in Syria and Iraq, could be redeployed to Jordan. Germany says its military involvement in the current conflict in the two Arab countries serves logistic and supportive purposes and the troops have not been deployed to combat missions.
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, right, talks with German soldiers during a visit to the German Armed Forces Bundeswehr at the air base in Incirlik, Turkey, January 21, 2016. (AFP photo)
Relations between Germany and Turkey declined further during a Turkish referendum in April, which was meant to boost President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers. Turkish officials were angry at a decision by the German government to deny rallies in support of Erdogan in Germany, where some three million ethnic Turks live. Ankara said similar rallies by outlawed Kurdish militants and their sympathizers were generously allowed in Germany.
Berlin and Ankara were previously at odds over developments that unfolded in the wake of a coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016.
Turkey launched a massive crackdown following the July 15 coup attempt. The action has mostly targeted followers of Fethullah Gulen, a US-based cleric who has denied any involvement in the coup.
Berlin and several other Western governments have repeatedly criticized the crackdown.
Turkey defends the move and says European governments have failed to properly condemn the coup. It says that Germany has even protected putschists by granting them asylum.—Agencies