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DIPLOMACY >Germany’s Merkel urges talks to resolve air base row with Turkey

BERLIN

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged talks to resolve ongoing disputes with Turkey on German lawmakers’ visits to troops stationed in Turkey as part of NATO missions.

In an interview with public television ARD on July 16, Merkel said current disputes between Berlin and Ankara should be resolved through bilateral talks and talks among the allies at NATO.

“This whole issue is unfortunate, very unfortunate,” Merkel told public broadcaster ARD, adding that more talks were needed to find a solution, also with the help of NATO.

“In terms of Konya, this is more about a NATO mission, for which Germany is providing a significant contribution. Therefore, not only the German government, but NATO will also have talks with Turkey,” said Merkel.

On whether Ankara had asked Berlin to extradite asylum seekers in exchange for granting lawmakers access to the air base, Merkel said she was not aware of any such request.

“If this was the case, we would reject this entirely,” Merkel said.

There could be no negotiations with Ankara about the extradition of Turkish asylum seekers and granting German lawmakers access to the soldiers at Konya air base because both issues were completely unrelated, she added.

On July 14, Ankara postponed a planned visit by a group of German lawmakers to the NATO base in the Central Anatolian province of Konya province, saying that such a visit was not politically appropriate at this point in time.

NATO’s mission in Konya provides intelligence support for the international coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Around 20 German soldiers are stationed at the base.
     
Earlier, NATO’s Secretary General has urged the Turkish and German foreign ministers to resolve their differences over visits to Turkish air bases.

NATO said Jens Stoltenberg had called German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on July 14 to ask them to settle the dispute.

“We hope Germany and Turkey are able to find a mutually acceptable date for a visit,” a NATO spokesman said. 

Germany’s armed forces are under parliamentary control and Berlin says the lawmakers must have access to its soldiers.

Several German politicians called for withdrawing German soldiers from the Konya air base, due to Ankara’s reluctance to give permission to such visits.

However, Merkel declined to take hasty decisions and opted to wait for the result of talks with Turkey.

Germany’s opposition lawmakers are pushing the government ahead of general elections in September to urge Turkey to give them the unrestricted right to visit the troops in the country.      
 
In June, Germany decided to withdraw its Tornado surveillance jets and around 260 troops from İncirlik air base, another key military base in Turkey.

Ties between Ankara and Berlin have been strained in recent months as Turkish leaders slammed Germany for turning a blind eye to outlawed groups while German politicians criticized Turkey over issues on human rights and freedom of the press.

July/17/2017

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