German troops begin duty in Jordan amid ongoing immunity row over Sharia

YUNUS PAKSOY @yunuspaksoy
Published 13.10.2017 00:00
Updated 13.10.2017 08:54

Having withdrawn from Turkey's İncirlik Air Base, German troops have had to start operations in Jordan earlier this week without immunity from Sharia law as the German government has not been able to strike a deal with the Jordanian government to obtain immunity for their personnel.

Negotiations between Germany and Jordan have been on the table for months, and a deal has not been reached so far regarding immunity of German personnel, a spokesperson for the German Defense Ministry told Daily Sabah. "The negotiations on the status agreement with Jordan are still ongoing," the spokesperson said.

The German military moved out of İncirlik Air Base this summer following months of political and diplomatic squabbles between Ankara and Berlin. Resorting to Jordan's Al-Azraq Air Base in the wake of the contentious pullout from Turkey, German forces conducted the first mission from Jordan as part of the anti-Daesh coalition on Oct. 9. "With this, full operational readiness has been achieved after the move of the contingent from Turkey to Jordan," the German army said in a statement.

However, Berlin might be vulnerable to further crises with their new host in the future as German soldiers are at the risk of being tried under Sharia law in Jordan unless the German government finds another way. It has failed so far in this respect.

Even though Berlin has not been able to reach an agreement over the course of the last two months in dealing with the Jordanian authorities, the German Defense Ministry is still optimistic. "The constructive progress of the negotiations makes it possible to expect an outcome," the spokesperson, who requested to remain anonymous, said.

That being said, Jordan does not seem to be fully willing to play by Germany's rules. "We must be sure that legal violations are actually punished. It is also necessary to clarify how civil law claims are to be handled," Jordanian Justice Minister Awad Abu Jarad was quoted as saying in the German media last month.

Furthermore, another Jordanian official said that talks with Germany were "subject to international diplomatic rules" and "equal mutual treatment."

While Berlin works to secure the status of German soldiers in Jordan, the withdrawal from İncirlik was unprecedented in relations.

The İncirlik crisis broke out after Ankara barred a German parliamentary delegation from visiting the air base. The ban quickly turned into a domestic headache for German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union (CDU). The issue was hastily brought to the German parliament, which decided to relocate its troops to Jordan on June 21.

A senior Turkish official told Daily Sabah at the time that the visit "was not deemed appropriate for the time being."

The times were, indeed, troubling for both states, as Ankara accused Berlin of harboring PKK and Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) terrorists. The latter also has pointed to human rights violations and diminishing freedoms and rights for journalists in Turkey.

Germany had about 250 soldiers stationed at the base in the southern province of Adana, along with six Tornado reconnaissance jets, 180 to 200 containers and a refueling aircraft, all of which was used to participate in the U.S.-led air campaign against Daesh militants in Iraq and Syria.

The German Defense Ministry spokesperson said that the German troops were and are "well cared for, safe and protected" at the Jordanian base.

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