German cabinet approves more troops for AWACS deployment in Turkey
BERLINThe 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 Air Base, located in the southern province of Adana, which is close to the border with Syria.
A row 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.
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 that 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 crews 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 was “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.
The Bundestag can approve the draft legislation in November rather than December, as was initially planned, German website stern.de said on its website on Oct. 12.
NATO has been operating some AWACS from Konya air base since early 2016 as part of a separate mission approved after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet in the border area in November 2015.
Karl Lamers, a German lawmaker who was among the group of parliamentarians visiting German troops at İncirlik, said after visit on Oct. 5 that the visit itself had paved the way for the German Parliament to vote to extend the deployment of nearly 240 German troops stationed at the base.