troops

Germany readies withdrawal of its military installations in Turkey over a dispute about the latter’s blocking of German parliamentarians’ access to its soldiers in the key Incirlik Airbase.

The strain is the latest of series of disagreements between two NATO allies, but the move is significant as it would be the first time that a NATO member country has to withdraw its troops from another ally, and likely to deploy at a non-NATO country, a German official told Xinhua.

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Ankara and Berlin have been at odds since two years ago over several issues, with the latest tension escalated after Germany accepted asylum claims from former high-ranking Turkish generals, who were also former NATO officials.

Turkey claimed that these generals had a direct hand in the failed coup attempt in July 2016. But Germany accepted the asylum by the Turkish officers for fear that they would not receive a fair trial in Turkey.

Turkey subsequently refused German lawmakers to access to Incirlik Airbase in southern of the country where hosts anti-Islamic State (IS) coalition members for military activities in Syria.

Germany has six Tornado surveillance planes, one tanker aircraft and around 250 troops deployed at the airbase providing intelligence and logistics support for anti-IS operations.

The refusal prompted German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her CDU party to consider the possibility of moving the troops from Incirlik airbase in Adana province and the cabinet on Wednesday approved the withdrawal.

German Defense Minister Ursula Von Der Leyen has called his Turkish counterpart Fikri Isik on Wednesday and informed about German cabinet’s decision, a Turkish official told Xinhua.

German Minister told Minister Isik that they were grateful Turkey for hosting German troops in Incirlik, but eventually they were obliged to take this decision and that will inform for plans of withdrawal, the official said.

Yet, German government is careful in its wording in order not to further harm bilateral relations with Turkey despite it had to withdraw troops which are likely to be deployed to Jordan as part of anti-IS coalition.

It is important that Germany and Turkey keep talking even after German troops leave the Incirlik air base, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday.

“We have a huge range of common interests with Turkey and also close economic relations, so discussions are very necessary,” Merkel told reporters after her cabinet backed the withdrawal of troops from the base.

Making one last push to convince Ankara, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel held talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday, but he could only get Turkish consent for a visit to a base in Konya, where a few German soldiers were stationed as part of a NATO mission.

“I regret that. Conversely, I ask for understanding that we – for domestic political reasons – must transfer soldiers out of Incirlik, because the German parliament has a parliamentary army and places value on German lawmakers being able to visit Bundeswehr soldiers at any time,” he said at a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart.

Shortly after his remarks, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim had cancelled a planned meeting with Gabriel, citing a “busy work schedule.”

Ankara considers that retreat of German military installations will not have serious consequences for Turkey.

On Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Germany could “remove its troops however it wants” and the decision has “nothing to do with Turkey.” Withdrawal of German soldiers from Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey would be of little consequence, he stated.

It is not the first time that Ankara refused to allow German parliamentarians from visiting their troops at Incirlik. Turkey initially made this decision in retaliation against the adoption by the German parliament in June 2016 of a resolution referring to the killing of Armenians during the Ottoman era in 1915 as “genocide.”

Tensions have also heightened ahead of an April 16 referendum for constitutional amendment, as Germany shut its doors to Turkish government members who wanted to campaign for nearly three million Turks living in the country.

President Erdogan resembled the decision of German authorities to “Nazi methods of the past” inflaming further anti-Turkey rhetoric in Germany.

Another source of tension between Berlin and Ankara is the latter’s accusation that the German government fails to take necessary measures against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) activities in German territories, even blamed some German lawmakers who applied to visit their troops in Turkey of having links with group.

Germany, meanwhile, has been asking release of Deniz Yucel, a Turkish-German journalist who was arrested in February, yet Turkish authorities claim that he was not arrested because of his journalistic work, “but because of his links with terror organizations.”

Ankara has already been facing the fallout from the dispute with Berlin. Germany reportedly has refused to a proposal by President Erdogan to host next year’s NATO summit in Istanbul.

“Germany’s moving out of the Turkish military base, for relocation in a non-NATO country, will be assessed and analyzed with regard to Turkey’s commitments to the world’s most important military alliance,” according to Hurriyet Daily News columnist Serkan Demirtas. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh