Turkey expects AWACS approval by Germany after lifting İncirlik veto
Serkan Demirtaş - ANKARA
AFP photoTurkey is expecting Germany’s parliament to approve the deployment of surveillance aircraft to support an international coalition’s fight against jihadists in Syria following the resolution of a months-long crisis between Ankara and Berlin over the latter’s request to let its lawmakers visit German troops at İncirlik Air Base.
A team consisting of six members of the Bundestag’s Defense Committee will pay a two-day visit to Turkey and hold talks with their counterparts at the Turkish Parliament’s Defense Committee on Oct. 4 before flying to İncirlik, which currently hosts 300 German soldiers, six Tornado surveillance aircraft and one tanker aircraft.
“The visit of German authorities to İncirlik is within the framework of inspecting German troops stationed at the base,” Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş told reporters following a cabinet meeting on Oct. 3.
“The decision for their visit was made in line with our bilateral agreements with Germany,” Kurtulmuş said.
German Ambassador Martin Erdmann confirmed the visit of German lawmakers to İncirlik Base in an interview with NTV on Oct. 3.
Turkey blocked Germany’s request for a visit to İncirlik after the Bundestag recognized the killings of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Empire in 1915 as genocide in early June. The problem could only be resolved after the German government said the decision taken by the parliament was not binding.
A meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in early September in China on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit constituted the key venue in removing the obstacles between the two sides.
Ball now in Germany’s court
However, having lifted its blockage on German lawmakers’ visit to İncirlik, Turkey expects two key decisions from the Bundestag. The first one is the extension of the mandate of German surveillance jets and its troops in İncirlik. It’s believed that Germany will issue a 14-month-long extension to the mandate which will also include the construction of military facilities for German troops that will cost 58 million euros.
The second approval expected from Germany’s parliament is the deployment of NATO’s Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) surveillance aircraft to Turkey under a NATO decision to support the United States-led international coalition fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria and Iraq.
AWACS aircraft will be provided to Turkey by Germany, although the deployment requires clearance from the German parliament. NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow said last week that he hoped the AWACS operation would begin before a NATO defense ministers’ meeting in late October.
“We hope the necessary approval will be given by the German parliament before this meeting. The ball is in Germany’s court,” a Turkish diplomatic source told the Hürriyet Daily News.