Germany turns İncirlik issue into matter of pride, unhappily leaves Turkey

ALI ÜNAL @ali_unal
Published 07.06.2017 00:24
Updated 07.06.2017 00:25
A technician works on a German Tornado jet at İncirlik Air Base, Turkey, Jan. 21, 2016.
A technician works on a German Tornado jet at İncirlik Air Base, Turkey, Jan. 21, 2016.

Amid tensions between the two countries over the İncirlik Air Base, German government is expected to discuss the withdrawal issue today at the cabinet meeting and eventually announce the withdrawal decision despite Turkey's efforts to come to terms

DespIte Ankara's willingness to overcome differences with Berlin, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel's visit to Turkey failed to produce any result, attributable to Germany's stance on the İncirlik issue. According to the Bundestag, German lawmakers have the right to visit their air base as a matter of national pride. Thus, the German government is expected to discuss the withdrawal issue today at a Cabinet meeting and a decision to withdraw German soldiers is expected to be announced following the meeting.

Amid tensions between two countries, Gabriel paid a visit to Ankara on June 5. Tensions between Turkey and Germany escalated with Germany's ban on Turkish politicians rallies prior to the April 16 referendum and Germany's supportive stance regarding terrorist groups, including the PKK and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), also poisoning the countries' deep rooted relations. The Turkish government's ban on a German parliamentary delegation visiting İncirlik Air Base also fueled the tension.

Turkey and Germany expressed their willingness to overcome differences during a joint press conference on June 5 with Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and his German counterpart in Ankara. Following the meeting, German Foreign Minister Gabriel expressed his commitment to better relations, while not committing to any concrete steps to change their stance against terrorist organisations the PKK and FETÖ. Thus Çavuşoğlu announced that no permission for a visit to İncirlik Air Base was given, while adding that the German delegation can visit the Konya NATO base rather than İncirlik. Çavuşoğlu also emphasized that Turkey had no problem with Germany, which is a major trade partner, adding, "If Germany takes one step forward toward us, we will always take two steps further."

Meanwhile Turkey's opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli on Tuesday backed the government's ruling against a visit by German lawmakers to the air base. Bahçeli also criticized Gabriel's remarks on the possible withdrawal of German troops from the base in Adana province."They could withdraw soldiers this week or next week," he said, adding: "Good riddance to you. They could find another country. Why do you hang around, what are you waiting for, why are you wasting time? Are you going to Jordan or Timbuktu? Go without a backward glance." Bahçeli added, suggesting that Germany could pull its troops out of a NATO air base in Konya province. Commenting on this issue Turkish Prime Minister Yıldırım said on Tuesday that the Turkish side has not taken any decision regarding the withdrawal of German troops from İncirlik and stated that the Germans can do whatever they would like to do.

On the German side German Defense Minister Ursula Von Der Leyen told reporters in Berlin on Monday that Germany will announce its final decision on whether or not to withdraw its troops from the İncirlik air force base in southern Turkey on Wednesday this week. "We will discuss further steps at Wednesday's Cabinet meeting and take a decision," she said, adding they were "prepared to relocate troops," and that a relocation to a base in Jordan would likely take two to three months. Meanwhile Germany's foreign minister said on Tuesday that he would try to avoid damaging already strained relations with NATO partner Turkey during a withdrawal of German troops, as he did not want a mounting dispute to push Ankara into closer ties with Moscow. "Above all we should organize the withdrawal so that there is no megaphone diplomacy where we trade insults," Gabriel said on Tuesday. Regarding the future of German-Turkish relations Gabriel said that bilateral relations have entered into a difficult period and he added that no one should expect improvement by tomorrow.

German ministers are due to discuss a potential withdrawal from İncirlik today in Berlin. Germany has currently over 250 military personnel stationed at İncirlik, following the 2015 deployment of several Tornado surveillance jets and a refueling plane at the base as part of the U.S.-led campaign against Daesh. In February, Germany ruled against giving Turkey unfiltered access to imagery gathered by Tornado fighter jets operating out of İncirlik.

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