German minister says will visit Turkey base after Ankara criticism
BERLIN – Agence France-Presse
REUTERS photoGerman Defense Minister said June 26 that she would personally visit an air base in Turkey after Ankara barred a German political delegation from making the trip next month.
Germany’s Defense Minister, Ursula von der Leyen, told the German Bild am Sonntag newspaper that she would go to the İncirlik Air Base in southern Turkey that is used to launch coalition air raids against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadists in Syria and Iraq.
She blasted a decision announced by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu June 23 that Germany’s State Secretary for Defence, Ralf Brauksiepe, and other lawmakers would not be welcome at İncirlik for a July visit because it would be “not appropriate.”
“I have never experienced anything like this. It goes without saying that the leadership of the defense ministry should be able to visit German soldiers in the field,” she said.
“That is why I will be travelling to İncirlik in the coming days to discuss the situation on the ground with our soldiers.”
A German Defense Ministry spokesman declined to provide further details on von der Leyen’s travel plans.
The minister said she would also use her visit “to explain to Turkey what it means to have a military under parliamentary control.”
“These are the same members of parliament who raised their hands for the Patriot mission of the German military to protect Turkey from Syrian missiles,” she said, referring to a three-year deployment of NATO anti-missile systems in southern Turkey that ended last year.
Germany last December agreed to send Tornado surveillance jets and tanker aircraft to İncirlik to aid the multinational coalition fighting ISIL in Syria. It has about 250 soldiers stationed at İncirlik.
However, Berlin angered NATO ally Turkey when its parliament passed a resolution this month calling the World War I killings of Armenians by Ottoman forces a “genocide.”
Çavuşoğlu refrained from linking the government’s denial of the visit with the genocide resolution, although German media reported that Turkey had said it blocked the visit because of the Armenia vote.