Germany will recall soldiers serving at the İncirlik airbase in Turkey if Ankara continues blocking German lawmakers from visiting the troops, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said in remarks published on Wednesday.
"The German army answers to parliament," Gabriel told the regional newspaper Mitteldeutsche Zeitung. "And if parliament cannot visit its army, then the army cannot stay there. This is absolutely clear."
Turkey's move was viewed as a reaction to the resolution passed by the German parliament last month that branded the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a genocide. However, Turkish officials acknowledged that visits by political delegations to the İncirlik base are not seen as appropriate and therefore the delegation's visit was not permitted.
His threat to pull out the 250 soldiers at the base, who are part of NATO operations against Daesh militants in Iraq, is the clearest sign yet of escalating tensions between the two members of the military alliance.
Though they are crucial partners in the effort to stem mass migration to Europe, Germany and Turkey's relations have taken several blows in recent months.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was perturbed by the broadcast of a satirical song about him on German television and in April launched legal action against the comedian who wrote it. The problem was further deepened when another comedian, Jan Boehmermann, read a poem on television bearing racist remarks and insults against the Turkish president, which led to a diplomatic crisis among the two countries. The Armenian resolution last month, which prompted Ankara to recall its ambassador, compounded the rift.
Gabriel's remarks echoed earlier demands by some German lawmakers that the soldiers should be recalled if Turkey did not change its position.
German forces are currently on missions in around 13 countries, including Afghanistan and Kosovo, as well as conducting monitoring in the Mediterranean. Lawmakers have often visited deployed soldiers, mainly in Afghanistan.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday that German lawmakers must be allowed to visit the soldiers and that she would try to solve the issue with the Turkish government.
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