Five countries operating at İncirlik Air Base, says Turkish FM

Five countries operating at İncirlik Air Base, says Turkish FM

Umut Erdem – ANKARA
Five countries operating at İncirlik Air Base, says Turkish FM

AFP photo

Troops and aircraft from five countries are deployed in southern Turkey’s İncirlik Air Base, according to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. 
“The aerial elements of the United States, Germany, Denmark, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are deployed at the İncirlik base as part of the fight against Daesh,” Çavuşoğlu said answering a parliamentary question on the foreign use of the air base located close the border with Turkey. 

Daesh is an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). 

Issued by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the parliamentary question asked about who was using the İncirlik base and what Germany’s demands were regarding İncirlik. 

“It is out of the question for Germany to establish a base in our country. Germany does not have such a demand. Just like our country, Germany is part of the global coalitions fighting Daesh and they contribute to the military campaign of the coalition. Within this scope, their aircraft and personnel are deployed in İncirlik,” said Çavuşoğlu. 

On Oct. 12, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet approved the deployment of additional German troops to Turkey to help operate NATO surveillance aircraft as part of the U.S.-led fight against ISIL. 

The Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft will be based at an air base in the Central Anatolian province of Konya. They will be used for reconnaissance in support of air strikes against ISIL targets. 

This decision comes a week after a group of German parliamentarians visited German troops at the İncirlik base. 

A row had erupted between Turkey and Germany after the German Bundestag recognized the killings of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Empire in 1915 as genocide in early June.

As part of the row, Turkey blocked Germany’s request for a visit to İncirlik, while Germany threatened to pull back its troops from İncirlik. 

The row was overcome after the German government said the Bundestag’s decisions did not legally bind the government. Thereafter, Turkey gave permission for the German MPs’ visit. 

The German military, or Bundeswehr, provides about one third of the crew used to operate and maintain NATO’s AWACS planes, but German law requires that individual missions must be approved by parliament. No details were provided on exactly how many troops would be part of the deployment. 

Germany already has about 500 military personnel involved in the fight against ISIL, including over 240 who are based at İncirlik to operate six Tornado surveillance aircraft and a refueling plane. Others are on board a German frigate that is operating in the eastern Mediterranean with the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. 

The total number of German troops participating in the fight against ISIL is capped at 1,200 and will not be increased, the sources said. 

German involvement in combating ISIL is “a core part of our security policy in the region, which is aimed at countering the direct and immediate danger to Germany, our allies and the international community,” the draft legislation said. 

NATO approved the new AWACS mission in July and could start flying the planes this month, although initially without German crews, since the German parliament is not expected to approve the expanded German role later in the year.