Ankara's denial of German lawmakers to visit the İncirlik Air Base in the southern province of Adana where German troops are deployed as part of the anti-Daesh coalition is becoming a domestic problem for Germany as Chancellor Angela Merkel was left helpless after the Bundestag rejected a motion last week filed by opposition parties to "immediately" withdraw German troops from İncirlik Air Base. "If Merkel doesn't succeed at the NATO summit on Thursday to get Turkey to change course, we need alternative bases," opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD)'s parliamentary group head Thomas Oppermann told the German press on Monday while adding that Germany will be humiliated if Merkel can't persuade Turkey.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said last week 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. Since then, Berlin has harshened its tone against the Turkish government regarding the recent İncirlik Air Base spat by threatening to pull out of the base. However, diplomatic sources along with deputies in Ankara have not shied away from showing the German government the door.
Germany has about 250 soldiers stationed at the base in southern Turkey, along with six Tornado reconnaissance jets and a refueling plane, all of which are participating in a U.S.-led air campaign against Daesh militants in Iraq and Syria. Ankara and Berlin disagree on several issues, including the fight against the PKK terrorist organization and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). At a joint press conference held with Chancellor Merkel in February, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized German authorities for their lack of speedy progress in the extradition of FETÖ members being sought by Turkey. Granting the suspected Gülenist NATO military officers asylum has further exacerbated already tense relations between Ankara and Berlin. Germany has been reportedly providing shelter to 250 fugitive diplomats and soldiers with suspected links to FETÖ who are accused of being involved in the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey.
The barring of German lawmakers from visiting the air base is not the first incident of diplomatic crisis between the two countries. The Turkish government previously prevented a German delegation that included Ralf Brauksiepe, deputy for German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, from visiting the air base along with German lawmakers in July 2016.
Berlin is conducting a hurried search for a new location in lieu of the İncirlik Air Base issue. It has been speculated that Jordan will be the best option for Germany. Diplomatic sources from Germany told Daily Sabah that a bilateral meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week on the sidelines of the NATO summit will be decisive in making the withdrawal decision. According to German sources, Merkel will call on Ankara to refrain from preventing the future visits of German lawmakers to İncirlik. Germany's SPD made Berlin's intentions known in last week, calling on Merkel to acquire "a permanent right to visit troops at İncirlik" during the Erdoğan meeting. In spite of Berlin's demand for a permanent right to visit İncirlik and its threats to pull out of the air base, Ankara remains adamant on the issue.