The withdrawal of German troops and aircraft stationed at a NATO air base in central Konya province is not under consideration even though Ankara recently barred a German delegation from visiting the site, a high-level NATO official told Daily Sabah.
As Germany's displeasure with Ankara for not allowing a German delegation to visit German troops stationed at the air base in Konya lingers on, some German politicians reacted to the incident, suggesting a withdrawal from the air base. However, acting NATO spokesman Piers Cazalet told Daily Sabah that such a withdrawal "is not under consideration."
Rainer Arnold, the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) spokesman for defense policy, in an interview with a German daily earlier this week set a deadline for Ankara to let German parliamentarians into the air base: "We need to discuss the issue of the withdrawal of the German soldiers from the base with NATO if it is still not possible to visit the base by the Federal Parliament General Assembly [session] in September."
The German Federal Republic Parliamentary Armed Forces ombudsman, Hans-Peter Bartels, expressed a similar concern: "If Turkey does not back down, the NATO base should be relocated to another partner country."Despite frustrated voices emerging from Berlin in response to Ankara's decision, Cazalet said: "There has been no impact on AWACS [airborne early warning and control system] operations out of Konya," since the tensions started to escalate. Some 20 German troops are estimated to be on duty at the Konya Air Base as part of NATO operations.
Regarding claims that the visit was canceled by the Turkish government, German government spokesman Stefan Seibert said that it was only postponed. He said that Chancellor Angela Merkel's government is trying to get NATO involved in the dispute to sort out differences of opinion between Ankara and Berlin.
Cazalet said that NATO "hopes that Germany and Turkey are able to find a mutually acceptable date for a visit." Stressing that German aircrews play an important role in NATO missions, he said: "NATO has been in contact with both countries and we hope that this issue can be resolved soon."
Jürgen Hardt, the foreign policy spokesman for Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), also called NATO into action, but the CDU lawmaker did it in a different manner. Calling on NATO to "put pressure on Turkey," Hardt said: "Within NATO, it must be stressed unequivocally that Turkey is currently on the wrong track. NATO advocates for freedoms and the rule of law. It is therefore unacceptable for a member to permanently drift away from the fundamental values and principles of this defense alliance."The ban on the German delegation that wanted to visit the Konya air base was not the first time that the two countries have come to the brink of a crisis. On June 7, the German government announced that German troops stationed at İncirlik Air Base as part of the anti-Daesh coalition would be moved to a military facility in Jordan over the coming months after Ankara refused German deputies permission visit. The Turkish government cited concerns at the time for the ban, saying that the visit was not "appropriate."
The İncirlik ban previously sparked a crisis between Ankara and Berlin. German parliament's decision to pull out from the air base seemed to have put an end to that strife. However, the Konya air base barring has seemingly re-stoked the flames.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the German Economy Ministry said on Friday that the German government was reviewing all applications for arms projects from Turkey. "We're checking all applications," she said without giving further details.
The German Bild newspaper, citing government sources, had previously reported that Berlin was putting arms contracts with Ankara on hold.
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