Have it your way, PM Yıldırım tells Germany on İncirlik air base
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has said the German government can “remove its troops however it wants” and the decision has “nothing to do with Turkey,” adding that German soldiers’ probable leaving of the İncirlik air base in southern Turkey would be of little consequence.
“There is no decision we have taken on this. They can have it their own way,” Yıldırım told reporters on June 6 at parliament.
His words followed Germany’s announcement that it will have to remove its troops and surveillance aircrafts based in the İncirlik base after Turkey repeatedly refused to allow German lawmakers to visit the base.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel held talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on June 5 but he could only get Turkish consent for a visit to a base in Konya, where German troops are stationed as part of a NATO mission.
Çavuşoğlu made clear that a visit to İncirlik was impossible given the current conjuncture and Germany’s acceptance of the asylum requests of hundreds of former military personnel and diplomats in the aftermath of the July 2016 coup attempt.
Germany has around 250 troops and six Tornado surveillance aircrafts based at the Incirlik as part of the international coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Germany: Avoid escalation
The German Parliament is expected to discuss the removal of troops at a session on June 7, with Jordan mooted as an alternative address. The removal process would take several months after a decision given by German lawmakers.
German Foreign Minister Gabriel said he would try to avoid damaging already strained relations with NATO partner Turkey during a withdrawal of German troops, as he did not want the mounting dispute to push Ankara into closer ties with Moscow.
Gabriel said German officials would do their best not to escalate the situation as German troops left the İncirlik air base.
“Above all we should organize the withdrawal so that there is no megaphone diplomacy where we trade insults,” Gabriel told the Deutschlandfunk radio station.
He said he had agreed with Chancellor Angela Merkel and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen that the German cabinet would deal with the issue on June 7. He also said the Defense Ministry had already been working on a withdrawal plan.
Ankara’s ties with Berlin and other European Union states deteriorated sharply in the run-up to Turkey’s April 16 referendum on constitutional amendments, including the shift to executive presidency from the parliamentary system.
“We have no interest in pushing Turkey into a corner ... we don’t want to push it towards Russia,” Gabriel said. “This is no small thing but it is about more than İncirlik, it’s about our relationship with Turkey.”
Next address is Jordan
In Berlin on June 5, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said the troops at İncirlik would be moved to a base in Jordan. “It is unacceptable that our deputies cannot visit the troops. We are ready for a transfer,” she said, adding that a “comparable alternative” had been identified at the Azraq air base in Jordan and that King Abdullah supported the move.
Germany’s cabinet is to “discuss and decide” an eventual move on June 7, von der Leyen added.
“We’ll now discuss and decide upon our future approach together in the cabinet,” she said. “İncirlik is a good air base for the fight against [ISIL] but we cannot accept not being able to visit our soldiers.”