Merkel wants end of travel ban of German MPs to Turkish base
BERLINGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel said she will continue pushing for a reversal of Turkey’s ban on Germany lawmakers to visit a Turkish base where German soldiers are stationed.
Merkel said in an interview to public broadcaster ZDF on July 10 that “it is necessary that our lawmakers can travel to İncirlik,” according to the Associated Press.
The İncirlik Air Base, located in Turkey’s southern province of Adana close to the border with Syria, is one of the main bases used to conduct the anti-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fight in Syria and Iraq.
“A way must be found for the lawmakers to visit the soldiers. We must continue to work on this, the solution is not yet there,” she said.
Germany sent more than 200 troops, six Tornado surveillance jets and a tanker aircraft to İncirlik late last year as part of the international coalition.
The Turkish government last month banned German lawmakers from visiting the base. It said the country permits only military or technical teams to visit the base.
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen visited the base on July 1, and met with her Turkish counterpart, Fikri Işık, after Turkey’s prime minister approved von der Leyen’s visit, during which von der Leyen said she told Işık how important it was to give German lawmakers responsible for military matters access to their troops in Turkey.
There are currently aircraft from the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Saudi Arabia and Qatar at İncrilik, which contribute to the fight against ISIL.
Merkel said she raised the topic during a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the sidelines of the NATO summit on July 9 but she stopped short of threatening to withdraw the soldiers.
Since the German Parliament voted early June to call the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I as “genocide,” relations between the countries have been tense.
German lawmakers say soldiers in İncirlik should be withdrawn
Meanwhile, several German lawmakers said on July 10 the country’s soldiers working at İncirlik should be brought home if Ankara continued to prevent parliamentarians from visiting the station.
A leader of Germany’s opposition Greens, Cem Özdemir, who is of ethnic Turkish origin, told ARD television the situation was unacceptable.
“As lawmakers who send soldiers to places, we must know where they are, how they are and be able to talk to the soldiers. If that is not possible in Turkey then the soldiers must come back to Germany,” Reuters quoted him as saying.
Lawmakers approve military spending and investment in infrastructure at the base.
Andreas Scheuer, General Secretary of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) who is part of Merkel’s conservative bloc in parliament, said lawmakers had to be allowed to visit soldiers.
“As a result of his behavior, Turkish President Erdoğan is risking the withdrawal of the German army,” he told the Tagesspiegel daily’s July 11 issue, according to extracts sent in advance to Reuters.
Turkey accepts that many Christian Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War One but it denies that up to 1.5 million were killed and that the killings constitute a genocide. It also says many Muslim Turks died in the clashes.