Germany asks US help to solve spat with Turkey over İncirlik

YUNUS PAKSOY @yunuspaksoy

The German government has been in close contact with Washington asking for support in regard to the recent strife with Ankara over the ban on a German parliamentary commission that wanted to visit the İncirlik Air Base.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel called for U.S. backing in the challenging talks with Turkey over the İncirlik crisis during his visit to Washington on Wednesday. "I think the Americans will use their influence to speak to the Turkish side about the fact that a different relationship is needed in relation to the current one," Gabriel said after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

In spite of Germany's request to Washington for backing in the dialogue with Ankara on the İncirlik issue, sources in Berlin told Daily Sabah that the German Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen said in a meeting with the German Parliamentary Defense Commission that U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis pledged to lend a helping hand to Germany if it decides to pull out of the air base. In fact, von der Leyen will be flying to Jordan this weekend to discuss the possible transfer from Turkey.

Germany has been threatening to withdraw some 200 personnel and several Tornado jets from İncirlik that have been stationed as part of a U.S.-led anti-Daesh coalition. It has been speculated that Jordan will be the best option for Germany, while other reported options for air bases have included Greek Cyprus and Kuwait.

German sources said a bilateral meeting next week between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels will be decisive in making the withdrawal decision.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said yesterday that Ankara would not beg if Berlin decided to leave İncirlik. "It is up to them, we will not beg them," Çavuşoğlu said, accusing the German government of trying to patronize Turkey on the issue. "We are telling Germany that they cannot treat Turkey as they wish. Turkey will not accept hypocrisy," he added.

Turkish diplomatic sources consider Germany's intention to pull its troops out of İncirlik an unnecessary move. The fact that German lawmakers cannot visit the troops does not prevent the German military from conducting operations against Daesh, the sources said.

The crisis started on Monday after it was revealed that a parliamentary delegation was not allowed to visit the İncirlik Air Base for several reasons.

Daily Sabah has since learned the reasons for the ban on the German lawmakers' visit. Sources said there were PKK and Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) sympathizing lawmakers in the German delegation.

In addition, Germany's uncooperative stance towards the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) has also been source of tension, since the country has been a safe haven for hundreds of FETÖ members, including high ranking NATO military officers.

The spat between the two countries prior to the April 16 constitutional referendum in Turkey is considered to be another reason for the ban. Hostile statements from Berlin about Turkish politicians traveling to Germany during the referendum campaign period also played a role.

The two countries went through the same crisis almost a year ago. A German parliamentary defense commission delegation was not allowed to pay a visit to İncirlik Air Base after the German Parliament adopted a resolution regarding the events of 1915. The Federal Parliament approved a controversial motion labeling the 1915 events "genocide."

The crisis was solved months later after von der Leyen was allowed to visit the air base with a German delegation.

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