ANKARA, June 5, (RTRS): Germany will have to pull its forces out of the Incirlik air force base in southern Turkey because of Turkish government restrictions on German lawmakers seeking to visit troops there, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Monday.
Gabriel was speaking after a meeting in Ankara with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, which had aimed to address the standoff over Incirlik and other diplomatic tensions between the two NATO allies. “My Turkish colleague explained to me that in the current situation, Turkey is not able to allow every visit by German parliamentarians to Incirlik — for domestic reasons,” Gabriel told a news conference.
“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.” Shortly after he spoke, sources in Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s offi ce said the Turkish premier had cancelled a planned meeting with Gabriel, citing a busy work schedule. Ties between Turkey and Germany deteriorated sharply in the run-up to Turkey’s April 16 referendum that handed President Tayyip Erdogan stronger presidential powers. Turkey was infuriated when Germany, citing security concerns, banned some Turkish politicians from addressing rallies of expatriate Turks before the referendum. Ankara responded by accusing Berlin of “Nazi-like” tactics.
Turkey has prevented German lawmakers from visiting the roughly 250 troops stationed at Incirlik as part of the US-led coalition against Islamic State, saying that Berlin needs to improve its attitude fi rst. It has also called on Berlin to extradite people who are seeking asylum in Germany and have suspected links to last July’s attempted coup in Turkey. “Those who seek asylum to escape Turkey and have been mixed up in the coup should be extradited,” Cavusoglu told the news conference. Commenting on the case of German- Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel, whom Turkey arrested in February on a charge of spreading terrorist propaganda, Cavusoglu said there was a trend in Europe for intelligence agencies to use journalists as agents. He said Yucel’s case was a matter for the courts. “Our independent judiciary is carrying out the process. The judiciary will make the decision on Yucel,” Cavusoglu said.