Turkey and Germany again at odds over Incirlik airbase

2017-05-18 21:46:14 GMT2017-05-19 05:46:14(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

ANKARA, May 18 (Xinhua) -- Ankara and Berlin are again in war of words over access to an air base in the south of Turkey, a dispute triggered due to Turkish soldiers seeking asylum in Germany.

Germany considers withdrawing its military installations in Incirlik Airbase, which was deployed for efforts against Islamic State (IS) group in Syria, after a delegation of German lawmakers were blocked from visiting the country's soldiers stationed at the base.

German government is mulling to transfer six Tornado reconnaissance planes, a refueling plane and 250 troops stationed in Turkey to Jordan.

Turkey's reaction comes after several Turkish soldiers and their families, all stationed at NATO facilities in Germany and feared persecution for alleged involvement in failed July 15 coup attempt, have been reportedly granted asylum in a preliminary decision.

Ankara assumes soldiers being suspected followers of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, who the Turkish government accuses of orchestrating the failed coup attempt.

The visit of German lawmakers is not appropriate at the time, a Turkish official told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

The Bundestag will likely vote for withdrawal of troops in the Incirlik Air Base within a fortnight if Turkey persists in denying German lawmakers access to the site, Germany's Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Wednesday.

"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," the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung quoted Gabrial as saying.

"The German parliament is to be blackmailed, then the limit of tolerance has been reached," he said.

The German government had been evaluating possible alternatives to Incirlik air base or some time and was considering moving the troops to Jordan, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday.

Yet, Ankara has not taken a step back over the dispute as the Turkish Foreign Minister said Germany was free to withdraw its troops in the airbase.

"We are not going to beg. They were the ones who wanted to come and we helped. We gave a place to them as part of coalition against Daesh (Arabic acronym of Islamic State). If they want to go, we would say 'Goodbye'," Foreign Minister of Turkey, Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday in a televised interview.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Tuesday that Germany has to make a choice between granting asylum to Turkish NATO officials and developing relations with the Turkish government.

"Germany has to decide. If it wants to develop relations with Turkey then it should turn to the Republic of Turkey, not to separatists," the prime minister said.

These flare-up statements are the latest series of quarrel between the two countries. Relations between Turkey and Germany are complex, with some 3 million people with a Turkish background living in the country.

Several Turkish ministers were barred from demonstrating rallies to German Turks during a campaigning for constitutional amendment referendum on April 16. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's comparison of Angela Merkel's Germany with the Nazi practices was met with shock and anger.

"When we call them fascists, Nazis, they in Europe get uncomfortable. They rally together in solidarity. Especially Merkel...But you are right now employing Nazi measures," Erdogan said in March.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is under increased pressure from the opposition and the press especially after a reporter of the prominent newspaper Die Welt, Deniz Yucel, became the first German citizen to be arrested in February for what was described as "terrorist propaganda" by the Turkish government.

Tensions between Germany and Turkey are in ups and downs since a couple of years.

In 2016, Turkey had banned German lawmakers from visiting the base in response to a parliamentary resolution declaring the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a "genocide," but later paved the way for their visit after a statement by German FM hinting that the resolution was not binding.