Turkish foreign minister says Germany can leave airbase

Friday, 19 May, 2017

The row over the German troops stationed at Turkey's Incirlik Air Base concerns Ankara and Berlin, not North Atlantic Treaty Organisation itself, said the alliance's chief on Thursday.

In an interview on May 17, the German Foreign Minister criticized Turkey's decision to block the parliamentary delegation from visiting Bundeswehr (The unified armed forces of Germany) soldiers stationed at Turkey's Incirlik base.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has confirmed that while the dialogue with Turkey is continuing, the German government "searches for alternatives to Incirlik".

Turkey relented on allowing German visitors to the base in October 2016 but appears to be again clashing with Germany.

The spokesman cautioned however that any move would involve shifting hundreds of containers of materiel and would take several months.

"If Germany wants to improve ties with Turkey, then it has to turn towards the Turkish Republic and not separatists and members of FETO", Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in a speech to members of his ruling AK Party in parliament.

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

Numerous Turkish officials - including military, diplomatic and civilian personnel - were recalled from overseas by Ankara following the coup attempt.

He was referring to supporters of US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, blamed by Ankara for orchestrating the failed coup in July past year.

Another row a year ago, centered on a sensitive historical question, had led Turkey to deny German lawmakers the right to visit Incirlik for several months. That time the reason was Bundestag's adoption of the Armenian Genocide recognition resolution.

Both countries have sparred over a range of issues, including civil rights in Turkey, press freedom and the military campaign against Turkey's Kurdish minority.

The Berlin government is mulling moving its troops out of Turkey's Incirlik air base after a second snub by Ankara. They flared up again before Turkey's presidential republic referendum on April 16, which Erdogan and his party AKP won with a very narrow majority, with the Turkish opposition disputing the results, and global observers finding numerous violations.

The deepening row has further soured relations that became increasingly strained ahead of a constitutional referendum in Turkey that handed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers. Turkey is the Ottoman Empire's successor state and disputes the designation.