German delegation visits troops at Turkish air base as crisis ends

DAILY SABAH
ANKARA
Published

A delegation of German parliamentarians arrived on Friday in Turkey to visit German troops stationed at a NATO air base in central Konya province and inspect air operations, in a move that is likely to end the feud between the two countries after Ankara disallowed German parliamentarians to visit the site in mid-July.

Seven German parliamentarians traveled to Konya air base on Friday, where some 30 German soldiers are stationed as part of a NATO mission. The visit was mediated by NATO after Ankara and Berlin were locked in a heated crisis due to the aforementioned ban. Friday's visit is expected to break the ice regarding the Konya air base crisis.

After Ankara told the German parliamentary delegation that the visit to Konya air base was not possible at the time, some German lawmakers even called on the German government to withdraw troops from the base.

Rainer Arnold, the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) spokesman for defense policies, said at the time that Ankara must immediately 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."

However, NATO told Daily Sabah at the time of the Konya crisis that it was mediating between the countries. Acting NATO spokesperson Cazalet said that NATO "hopes that Germany and Turkey are able to find a mutually acceptable date for a visit." Stressing that German aircrews are significant in NATO missions, he said: "NATO has been in contact with both countries and we hope that this issue can be resolved soon."

Ankara's ban on German lawmakers wanting to visit the Konya air base is not the first time the two countries have been locked in strife. Turkey previously did not allow German deputies on May 15 to pay a visit to İncirlik Air Base in Adana on the grounds that Germany's stance regarding terrorist groups including the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the U.S as well as the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), which is accused of plotting the coup attempt which left 249 people dead on July 15 last year, and Germany's non approval of Turkish ministers holding rallies in Germany ahead of the April 16 referendum.

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 to visit. The German military is expected to start air operations from Jordan as part of the U.S.-led anti-Daesh coalition soon.

The German military considers itself a "parliamentary army," meaning that each troop deployment has to be decided by a vote in the Bundestag. A defense committee regularly re-evaluates all international missions. The lawmakers were scheduled to spend three hours with the troops at Konya air base; however, media outlets were not permitted access to the visit.

Ankara and Berlin are also locked in diplomatic crises as the former asserts that removing double standards imposed on Turkey to turn a new page in ties with Germany is a must. "Unfortunately, some European governments fall under the influence of some spheres advocating racist, Islamophobic and Turkophobic remarks. These countries openly presented a one-sided attitude ahead of Turkey's April 16 referendum. This attitude caused great sensitivity among the Turkish public and harmed their trust," Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said last month in a newspaper interview.

While the Turkish government calls on Berlin to negotiate with Ankara on common terms, the German government argues that Turkey has been drifting away from European values. "We are ready to extend a hand to Turkey. But a new beginning requires changes in Ankara, both in terms of tone and factual matters," Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in an interview with the Stuttgarter Nachrichten newspaper last month.

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